Published: Sun, September 09, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

US military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons

US military drawing up options should Syria use chemical weapons

The fate of Idlib, Syria's last rebel-held area, is in the balance after the leaders of Iran and Russian Federation backed an offensive to recapture it.

"Iran and Turkey must further boost their economic relations to counter U.S. sanctions", President Hassan Rouhani said in a Friday meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is in Tehran to attend a trilateral summit on Syria with his Iranian and Russian counterparts.

Seized from government forces in 2015, Idlib and adjacent areas form the final major chunk of Syrian territory are still under opposition control, home to some three million people, with around half of them displaced from other parts of the country, according to the United Nations.

There are an estimated 10,000 fighters, including al Qaeda-linked militants, in the province.

Despite dire USA warnings and fears of a humanitarian disaster, the Trump administration has little leverage to stop Russia, Iran and Syria pressing ahead with a massive military assault against Syria's northwest Idlib province.

President Donald Trump has twice bombed Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018.

The spokesman for the Turkish president has criticized world players for their lack of action to stop a looming offensive against the last remaining rebel stronghold in northwestern Syria. That plan, published by the Washington Institute in July, called for the Trump administration to pursue "a no-fly/no-drive zone and a small residual ground presence in the northeast with intensified sanctions against the Assad regime's Iranian patron", in order to "stabilize the area, encourage Gulf partners [Saudi Arabia, UAE] to 'put skin in the game, ' drive a wedge between Moscow and Tehran, and help Israel avoid all-out war".

Is this the beginning of the end to the seven year war in Syria?

"The atrocities committed by Assad will be a permanent stain on history and a black mark for this council which was blocked over and over by Russian Federation from taking action to help", she added.

Smoke rising over buildings that were hit by airstrikes, in al-Sahan village, in the northern province of Idlib, Syria.

"Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed".

Both Iran and Turkey are under unilateral United States sanctions, which have complicated transactions in dollars because they have to be processed through the American financial system.

There was no immediate reaction from fighters in Idlib.

Over the past 18 months, backed by the manpower and firepower of Russian Federation and Iran, the regime has had a string of battlefield successes, seizing the northern city of Aleppo, Deir ez Zour in the east, the Eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus, and most recently, Deraa and Quneitra provinces in the south.

An official in the town of Morek, which serves as a crossing between Hama and Idlib, appealed for Turkey to intervene as it has troops and 12 observations points circling Idlib. Russian Federation has suggested the rebels could use chemical weapons in a final battle for the rebel stronghold. He made it clear that the operations against anti-Assad forces in Idlib will continue until they all leave Syria.

Erdogan, meanwhile, may have been the leader with the most to lose ahead of the offensive.

In addition to attempting to expel Iranian forces, the Trump administration's new "strategy" in Syria will also consist of the "establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the worldwide community", notes the Post. "Russian jet fighters and the regime ground forces can not afford attacks while Turkish soldiers are there", Kalin said. UN Syria mediator Staffan de Mistura said there were "all the ingredients for a flawless storm", Reuters reported.

The White House has warned that the United States and its allies would respond "swiftly and vigorously" if Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in the widely expected offensive. Yet the goal remained to have the roughly 2,200 USA troops in Syria exiting sometime this fall.

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