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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

US may preempt an Assad chemical strike in Syria

Signs were gathering in Washington and the Middle East Tuesday, June 26 that the Trump administration was preparing a substantial military operation against the Syrian army and Bashar Assad’s allies, such as the foreign pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah. Some US military sources suggested that an American preemptive strike was in store in the coming hours to prevent Assad’s army from again resorting to chemical warfare against his people.
 
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday night that the US "has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children." He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women and children, and warned that if "Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price."
 
On April 4, the Syrians launched a chemical weapons attack, which killed 87 people, including 30 children, following which the Trump administration fired scores of Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base.

The US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley then futher stoked the tensions by declaring on Twitter that any chemical weapons attack by Bashar-Assad’s Syrian government “will be blamed on Assad but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.” 
 
Haley’s tweet ended with the cliffhanger: “Stay tuned for more tomorrow.”
 
DEBKAfile’s military sources add: An American attack on Syria, whether preemptive or punitive, may be launched from the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the eastern Mediterranean.

It was from the decks of this vessel that US Navy fighter jets took off on June 18 to down a Syrian SU-22 fighter bomber over eastern Syrian. A repetition of a US carrier-based attack on Syria would challenge the warning Moscow issued to Washington on June 24 after the Syrian warplane was shot down:
 
"From now on, in areas where Russian aviation performs combat missions in the skies of Syria, any airborne objects found west of the Euphrates River, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles belonging to the international coalition, tracked by means of Russian land and air anti-aircraft defense, will be considered air targets."

That warning was intended to mark a red line against US flights crossing through central and western Syria. Posted at Latakia, on Syrian’s Mediterranean coast in the west are advanced Russian anti-air S-400 and S-300 missiles.