The Trump administration is weighing a decision to strike the Assad regime in Syria, and is consulting foreign powers on forming a joint military response to the government’s chemical attack in Douma last weekend that left over 80 people dead.
US President Donald Trump cancelled a scheduled trip to Latin America in order to manage the ensuing crisis, and is reportedly involved in extensive consultations with officials in the UK and France about launching a military strike as early as at the end of this week. If confirmed, France may lead the operation in place of the US; France is already involved in the US-led coalition created in 2014 to fight Daesh in Syria.
Yesterday at the White House, Trump also met with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, who told reporters that he and Trump “see eye to eye” on the Syria problem. Qatar hosts the main US air operations centre for the Middle East, which would coordinate any American air attack in Syria.
Yesterday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman also confirmed that Saudi Arabia could take part in military action in Syria.
“If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present,” Bin Salman said at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, wrapping up a three-day visit to Paris.
According to French media sources, the Syrian regime has started to evacuate soldiers and missiles from the Al-Dumayr airbase in anticipation of an attack, relocating them instead to the Russian-operated Khmeimim base.
Last night, the Russian ambassador to Lebanon vowed that his country would shoot down any missiles fired at Syria, with the Kremlin warning the White House today against moves that could “destabilise” the country.
Trump responded to the reports this morning on Twitter, stating that Russia should “get ready … they [the missiles] will be coming, nice and new and “smart!”
Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
The international air traffic control agency Eurocontrol has also warned flights travelling over the Eastern Mediterranean to exercise extra caution, due to possible strikes over the next 72 hours that could interrupt radio navigation systems. Most flights have avoided the area since the start of the conflict, although Syrian Air and Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines continue to use Syrian airspace.
Israel is also on high alert for possible retaliation air strikes from Iran, after a suspected Israeli attack on a Syrian airbase left at least seven Iranian military advisors dead. Iran, Syria and Russia denounced the strike with the Russian foreign ministry summoning Israel’s ambassador in Moscow.