Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.
- Vladimir Putin said further attacks on Syria will bring “chaos” in world affairs
- America accused Russia of blocking attempts to investigate Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities
- New sanctions against Russia will target companies linked to Syria
In a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Mr Putin and Mr Rouhani agreed the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the seven-year Syria conflict, according to a Kremlin statement.
“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the Kremlin statement said.
The warnings come as US President Donald Trump’s aides announced plans for new economic sanctions against Russia for enabling the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Stepping up the pressure on Syria’s President, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley indicated the sanctions to be announced Monday would be aimed at companies “that were dealing with equipment” related to Mr Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use.
She said Russia had blocked six attempts by the UN Security Council to make it easier to investigate the use of chemical weapons.
“Everyone is going to feel it at this point,” Ms Haley said, warning of consequences for Mr Assad’s foreign allies.
“The international community will not allow chemical weapons to come back into our everyday life,” she said.
“The fact [Mr Assad] was making this more normal and that Russia was covering this up, all that has got to stop.”
Mr Trump has also defended his use of the phrase “Mission Accomplished” to describe the US-led missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program.
In an early-morning tweet, Mr Trump said the strike was “perfectly carried out”, and criticised journalists for taking issue with his choice of words.
While he declared success, the Pentagon said the pummelling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.
His choice of words recalled a similar claim associated with President George W Bush following the US-led invasion of Iraq.
Mr Bush addressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 alongside a “Mission Accomplished” banner, just weeks before it became apparent that Iraqis had organised an insurgency that would tie down US forces for years.
On Sunday, Ms Haley made clear the United States would not be pulling troops out of Syria right away, saying US involvement there “is not done”.
She said the three US goals for accomplishing its mission were making sure chemical weapons were not used in a way that could harm US national interests, that the Islamic State group was defeated, and that there was a good vantage point to watch what Iran was doing.
“We’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished those things,” she said.
‘Good souls will not be humiliated,’ says Assad
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The assault was carefully limited to minimise civilian casualties and avoid direct conflict with Russia in Syria, but confusion arose over the extent to which Washington warned Moscow in advance.
The Pentagon said it gave no explicit warning. The US ambassador in Moscow, John Huntsman, said in a video: “Before we took action, the United States communicated with [Russia to] reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties.”
Russia has military forces, including air defences, in several areas of Syria to support Mr Assad in his long war against anti-government rebels.
Russia and Iran called the use of force by the United States and its French and British allies a “military crime” and “act of aggression”.
The UN Security Council met to debate the strikes, but rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the “aggression” by the three Western allies.
Mr Assad denies he has used chemical weapons, and the Trump administration has yet to present hard evidence of what it says precipitated the allied missiles attack — a chlorine gas attack on civilians in Douma on April 7.
The US said it suspected sarin gas also was used.
“Good souls will not be humiliated,” Mr Assad tweeted, while hundreds of Syrians gathered in Damascus, the capital, where they flashed victory signs and waved flags in scenes of defiance after the early morning barrage.
The strikes “successfully hit every target,” said Dana W White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman.
The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons “bunker” a few miles from the second target.