As Syria builds up forces for what is expected to be a battle to obliterate the last major pocket of resistance to the regime of dictator Bashar Assad, President Donald Trump is leading a battalion of American voices warning Syria not to make a mistake it will regret.
About 3 million people live in Idlib Province in northern Syria. Russian officials last week said an attack on the region was necessary. Russia and Iran have provided key military aid that has enabled Assad to score military victories over the rebels who have been fighting his government for the past seven years, according to The Hill.
“Idlib is the last major stronghold of terrorists who are trying to gamble on the status of the de-escalation zone and hold civilians as human shields and bring the armed formations ready for negotiations with the Syrian government to their knees,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week.
“So, from all standpoints, this ‘abscess’ has to be liquidated,” he said, according to the Voice of America.
Not so fast, Trump tweeted Tuesday.
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
“President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!” Trump tweeted.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also sent a warning.
— Archive: Ambassador Nikki Haley (@AmbNikkiHaley) September 3, 2018
“All eyes on the actions of Assad, Russia, and Iran in Idlib. #NoChemicalWeapons,” she tweeted.
CNN reported Monday that Russian jets attacked targets in Idlib Province after Trump issued his tweet.
#BREAKING: With several hours delay, #Russia–#Syria|n Joint operation for liberation of #Idlib has started 3 hours ago. The first stage is heavy bombardments is now being carried out by #Russia|n Air Force's Su-24M2s & Su-34s flying from #Hmeimim AB, #Latakia. pic.twitter.com/LlNiVBCxjr
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) September 4, 2018
The United States has already launched two attacks against Syria for using chemical weapons against the rebels.
CNN said that the U.S. “could respond very quickly” if Syria uses chemical weapons again.
An attack on Idlib Province would take a heavy toll of civilian lives, one expert said.
“Idlib would see a humanitarian catastrophe that exceeds the level of any seen in the Syrian conflict so far,” said Lina Khatib, head of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House in London, according to CNN.
“You have the potential for civilians to be not just targeted by the regime but also to be caught in battles through which these rebel groups aim to defend against regime attacks.”
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