Russia says Israel struck Syrian air base after chemical attack
Russia is blaming Israel for a missile attack on a Syrian airbase that killed 14, including some Iranians.
The attack occurred hours after the Syrian air force delivered a poison gas attack on a suburb of Damascus where rebels have been fighting Syrian and Iranian-backed forces. The attack killed at least 49, mostly women and children.
The missile attack was not launched by the U.S., and Israel has had no comment on whether it is responsible.
The Russian military, whose forces are supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said two Israeli F-15 war planes had carried out the strikes on the Syrian T-4 air base, the Interfax news agency reported.
Interfax cited the Russian Defence Ministry as saying the Israeli war planes had carried out the strikes from Lebanese air space, and that Syrian air defense systems had shot down five of eight missiles fired.
Syrian state media, citing a military source, then carried a similar report. "The Israeli aggression on the T4 airport was carried out with F-15 planes that fired several missiles from above Lebanese land," state news agency SANA said.
When asked earlier about the explosions from the air base, an Israeli spokeswoman declined to comment. Israel had no immediate comment to the Syrian and Russian military charges.
Israel has struck Syrian army locations many times in the course of the conflict, hitting convoys and bases of Iranian-backed militias that fight alongside Assad's forces.
Israel has accused Damascus of allowing Iran to set up a complex at the T-4 base to supply arms to its ally, Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah.
Syrian state TV, in its initial report, said there had been casualties in what it said was a suspected U.S. missile attack on the T-4 airfield near Homs, close to the ancient city of Palmyra in central Syria. The Pentagon denied U.S. war planes were carrying out any air strikes in Syria at the present time.
"However, we continue to closely watch the situation and support the ongoing diplomatic efforts to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable," it said.
Defence analysts say there are large deployments of Russian forces at the T-4 base and jets fly regular sorties from there to strike rebel-held areas.
Donald Trump warned earlier that there would be a "big price to pay" for the chemical weapons attack, and he raised the issue of Obama's failure to eliminate Assad's chemical weapons:
If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
More details are emerging about the poison gas attack on Douma, a suburb about 10 miles outside the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said in a joint statement 49 people had been killed in the suspected gas attack.
One video shared by activists showed bodies of about a dozen children, women and men, some with foam at the mouth. "Douma city, April 7 ... there is a strong smell here," a voice can be heard saying.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
There is no doubt that this attack is the direct result of Obama's timidity and naïveté. Not only did he fail to fulfill his promise to attack Syria if it used chemical weapons again (it did), but then he was dumb enough to believe the Russians when they claimed they had removed all of Assad's chemical weapons.
Obama's stupidity has cost hundreds of lives since then.
Incredibly, former Obama administration officials are defending the deal with Russia to remove Syria's chemical weapons.
What the deal did achieve, according to Avril Haines, who served as Obama's deputy national security adviser, was to force Syria to declare 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, which were then destroyed. "This was a major achievement and one that has put us in a better position to address the threat posed by [Assad] ... we have learned a great deal about Syria's holdings and capabilities" because the regime was effectively forced to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, she wrote in an email.
Thirteen hundred tons, eh? That certainly did those women and children in Douma a lot of good.
After secretary of state John Kerry assured the American people that Assad's chemical weapons would no longer pose a threat to civilians, it emerged that they knew damn well that Assad had another undeclared stockpile:
Four years ago, it almost looked as if chemical attacks on Syrian civilians would stop. "We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out," declared then-Secretary of State John Kerry on Meet the Press in 2014. Kerry was referring to Bashar al-Assad's declared stockpiles of chemical weapons which, under a 2013 deal struck by the Obama administration following a sarin nerve gas attack that brought the U.S. to the brink of striking Syrian government forces, were dismantled and shipped out of the country.
But there were two important and deadly loopholes. The first was that Assad did not declare everything – a reality that Kerry acknowledged publicly, including in a farewell memo to staff, in which he wrote that "unfortunately other undeclared chemical weapons continue to be used ruthlessly against the Syrian people." The second was that chlorine gas, which has legitimate civilian uses, was not part of the deal. The Syrian American Medical Society and the White Helmets civil-defense group have documented 200 chemical attacks in Syria since 2012, many involving chlorine. On Saturday, the group alleged a particularly gruesome attack in the besieged city of Douma, which has reportedly killed dozens and injured hundreds. It remains unclear exactly what chemical weapon was involved in the alleged attack.
Trump inherited this mess and wants out. Who can blame him? It's not so much a quagmire as it is a Kobayashi Maru test – a no-win scenario. Nothing that can be done will alleviate the suffering of civilians. In fact, it's something that both Assad and Putin are counting on. The war has gone on so long and killed so many that the only possible end to the fighting is that the rebels simply give up. Bringing "peace" to Syria is a pipe dream as long as Russia and Iran are supporting Assad.
If the U.N. wants to protect civilians, it can send in its own troops. The international community is fond of pointing out the mistakes of the U.S. and criticizing us for intervening – except when its members want us to intervene to save them from having to send their own troops to some God-forsaken hotspot.
Trump is right to get out and let regional actors pick up the pieces in Syria.