Mr Putin argued that a purported chemical attack which prompted the strike was a fake. (AP: Alexander Zemlianichenko)
Syrian air strikes an 'act of aggression', Vladimir Putin says
14 Apr 2018,
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denounced a US-led air strike on Syria as an "act of aggression" that will exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.
In a statement issued by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations' Security Council over the strike launched by the United States, Britain and France.
Mr Putin added that the strike had a "destructive influence on the entire system of international relations".
He reaffirmed Russia's view that a purported chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, that prompted the strike, was a fake.
Mr Putin added that Russian military experts who inspected Douma found no trace of the attack.
He criticised the US and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog to visit the area.
Mr Putin has been a supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with Russian military forces helping in the Syrian leader's conflict with rebel forces.
In a televised statement for state media, the Syrian military said the attacks would not diminish the army's resolve to press the fight against all remaining militants in the country.
The army said nearly 110 missiles hit targets in the capital Damascus and other areas, and air defence systems brought most of them down.
"Such attacks will not deter our armed forces and allied forces from persisting to crush what is left of the armed terrorist groups," the military said.
Damascus, with key allies Russia and Iran, have lambasted reports of the suspected gas attack as bogus.
The Syrian Government has accused Washington of seeking to use it as a pretext for attacking.
The Syrian foreign ministry said the US-led strikes would only "lead to inflaming tensions in the world" and threaten international security.
"The barbaric aggression …will not affect in any way the determination and insistence of the Syrian people and their heroic armed forces," state media quoted an official ministry source as saying.
Following the attacks, hundreds of Syrians gathered at landmark squares in the Syrian capital, honking their car horns, flashing victory signs and waving Syrian and Russian flags in scenes of defiance.
Iran, Iraq warn strikes increase tensions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the US-led missile attack on Syria would lead to more destruction in the Middle East, according to Iran's Tasnim news agency.
"Such attacks will have no result but more destruction … the Americans want to justify their presence in the region by such attacks," Tasnim quoted Mr Rouhani as saying.
And in a statement, Iraqi's foreign ministry said the air strikes marked a "a very dangerous development".
"Such action could have dangerous consequences, threatening the security and stability of the region and giving terrorism another opportunity to expand after it was ousted from Iraq and forced into Syria to retreat to a large extent," it said.
The ministry called on Arab leaders to discuss the situation at a summit due to be held in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Shiite-led Iraq has kept good relations with the Assad Government and Iran, while also receiving massive military and financial support from the US, Britain and France.
The air strikes were aimed to stop further chemical attacks by the Assad regime.
Donald Trump's Syria strikes are designed to hit Assad's chemical weapons while limiting escalation, but may not be enough
By Anne Barker
14 Apr 2018,
The US-led missile strikes in Syria appear to have been carefully calculated to minimise any further escalation in the Syrian war, while going as far as possible to prevent any further chemical attacks on civilians.
Whether they have gone far enough remains to be seen.
Significantly, the US and its allies have confined their operation to Syrian military infrastructure, and explicitly avoided the possibility of Russian or Iranian casualties.
The missiles targeted three separate facilities linked to Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, including a research facility in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility in Homs — allegedly used to prepare the nerve agent sarin gas — and another nearby command post.
Britain says one of the targets was a former missile base, just west of Homs, where the Syrian regime was believed to have kept "chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of [its] obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention."
Certainly, the latest strikes have done more damage than a similar operation 12 months ago, when 59 US Tomahawk missiles targeted a military base at Shayrat, in central Syria.
Those strikes destroyed an airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations, and were retaliation for another chemical gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, that killed around 90 people, an attack the United Nations later officially blamed on Syrian forces.
On that occasion the US attack was confined to the airbase where planes carrying the sarin and chlorine gas had taken off. But it did nothing to target the Syrian Government's chemical weapons stockpile.
This time the US appears to have shown a determination to go further. The number of missiles fired appear to be much larger. But the impact is far less than the "World War III" many feared.
US prepared to 'sustain pressure', but will it be enough?
For all its firepower, the missile attack may again amount to just a warning — albeit stronger than last year's — that further chemical weapons attacks will incur similar retaliatory strikes.
President Donald Trump says Washington is prepared to "sustain pressure" on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until he ends a criminal pattern of killing his own people with chemical weapons.
Those comments raised immediate questions as to whether the military operation would extend beyond an initial round of missile strikes.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has since offered clarification, saying the strikes were a "one-time shot." But he also has not ruled out further attacks.
That depends now on the response from Syria, and its allies Russia and Iran.
Clearly, a limited strike by the US and its allies offers the best chance of limiting any retaliation.
But it will also lessen the chance of deterring further chemical attacks.
It is impossible to know whether the latest strikes have destroyed all the remaining stockpiles of chemicals used to create sarin or other nerve agents.
Even if they have, there is no guarantee that chlorine gas attacks will not continue, given the relative ease of obtaining the chemicals used to make chlorine gas, and their widespread use in non-military industry and agriculture. Chlorine gas is easier to make and almost as lethal as sarin.
The Syrian Government pledged to destroy its entire chemical weapons stockpile in 2013, and signed up to the international chemical weapons treaty for the first time, after global condemnation of an earlier sarin attack — widely blamed on Syrian forces — that the US said killed 1,400 people at Ghouta.
Under the deal, Syria also gave a commitment to reveal the location of its entire chemical weapons stockpile, and allow United Nations weapons inspectors into the country to verify their destruction.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons later sent a team to Syria that confirmed much, if not most of the stockpile, had been destroyed. But soon there were new reports of chemical weapons attacks, with strong evidence implicating Syrian Government forces. United Nations investigations blamed at least three of those attacks on the Syrian government — at Khan Sheikhoun, Talmenes and Sarmin.
For its part, the Syrian Government continues to deny that it was behind the latest chemical weapons attack, in Douma, and is yet to show how it plans to respond to the US-led strikes.