US strikes Assad regime after chemical attacks

  • Michaela Ceklová
  • 7.4.2017 16:43

In the early morning on 7 April, the United States launched 52 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean on al Shayrat airfield in Syria. According to the US president Donald Trump that attack was a retaliation for the chemical attack on 4 April. The US administration warned Russia prior to the attack in which six people died. Fighter jets, fueling stations, radars and other systems required for air operations were targeted.

The earlier chemical attack was carried out in the Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province and claimed at least 86 dead and hundreds of wounded. The nerve gas used in the attack was likely sarin. Both Syria and Russia deny responsibility for the attack, but Russia reported that the airstrikes only hit a rebel storage of chemical weapons. On 5 April, the EU condemned the attack at a conference on the Syrian conflict in Brussels. The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting where the United Kingdom, France and the United States introduced a draft resolution calling for an investigation of the attack. The voting never occurred as Russia claimed the report was "categorically unacceptable". The US stated that if the UN's multilateral actions should fail, they are willing to intervene militarily.

The situation is complicated, but Syria has the capacities and know-how on production, usage and storage of sarin, not to mention the fact that until recently Syria had chemical weapons in its possession. Even if we assume that there was no direct usage - which the Syrian regime denies - and the airstrikes only hit a former chemical storage of the Syrian government, they would have known about the facility and therefore should have never launched an attack in the first place. Moreover, pro-government forces are split and divided between rival factions, various armed groups and several foreign units and the attack could be conducted without the consent of the commander-in-chief.

On 30 March, the US stated that the resignation of Bashar al-Assad is not a priority for them, which is in conflict with the view of the European allies, who still insist on his resignation. However, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley added that this does not mean that the US will support Assad participation in elections. According to the Syrian president, the biggest problem is the peace talks, that so far did not bring the expected results. A meeting between the United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on global security, including the conflict in Syria, is scheduled for the next week.

Meanwhile, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) retook a considerable part of territory from the Islamic State (IS), while the IS fighters withdrew closer to the city of Raqqa, where the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) supported by the US advanced against the jihadists. Last week, the SDF conquered the northern part of the Tabqa Dam, about 40 km from the city of Raqqa. Also, the FSA provided security in areas near Damascus and Jordanian border. Turkey, which supports the FSA, announced the operation Euphrates Shield in the territory of Syria has ended, but it is likely that it will send additional troops to Syria under the auspices of another operation. The US expect Turkey to participate in the liberation of Raqqa.

About author: Michaela Ceklová

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