In a move that has become so common, President Trump took to Twitter to taunt his adversaries in recent days; this time it was Russia. Russia and the United States are at odds over the poisonous gas attack that the Syrian government unleashed against some of its people on April 7.
In the wake of the widely publicized Chlorine and Sarin gas attack, the Syrian capital saw another round of airstrikes, carried out by Britain, France and the US. And though the situation is fluid and information has not yet been released, these strikes have the potential worse than those ordered by President Trump last year in response to separate chemical attacks that saw 59 Tomahawk missiles lobbed into the embattled country in the seven-year-long civil war.
Complicating the issue is Russia’s support of Syria and her extremely contentious relationship with the United States, something the president blames on the “democrat loyalists” investigation into tampering with the 2016 election by the Russians.
Not helping the situation is the president’s Twitter taunting, all but threatening to start World War III, something that would be ill advised for a host of political, financial and military reasons. Syria is also supported by Iran, so if not handled very carefully, this really could shape up like another “axis of evil” reminiscent of World War II.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted early Wednesday, April 11. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Some say that the president’s tweets are a strategic blunder, that he never should have said anything about the airstrikes. But the National Defense Strategy written by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says, “Be strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.” What that means is that sending a tweet to warn that a strike is coming, without saying when, is perfectly ok.
Russia did not make good on those threats.
For Syria’s part, they deny that the chemical attack ever occurred, saying that the U.S. is just using the story as an excuse for “reckless escalation” and that the United States government “has sponsored and is still sponsoring terrorism in Syria,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia also denies that the attack took place. However, going one step further, Alexander Zasypkin, the Russian ambassador to Lebanon has said that Russia vows to shoot down any missiles launched into Syria and to attack the launch sites, namely American war ships.
Blood and urine samples in U.S. custody show that the weapons were, in fact, used.
The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has says that he is “outraged” by the reports and wants an investigation into the reports of the attacks. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international watchdog agency now has a team to Syria to investigate the attack and says that it is currently gathering all available information. The problem is that all that information is coming from Russia and Syria, so its veracity is already called into question.
Russian and Syrian authorities had been blocking inspectors from the Douma site, although they had allowed reporters in who had been vetted by state media in Russia and Syria, but said early Tuesday, April 14 that it would now allow inspectors to visit the site. This immediately raised concerns among U.S. envoys on the team of site tampering.
There are approximately 2,000 military personnel currently in Syria serving in support and advisory roles to the local militias fighting the Assad regime. President Trump has said that he wants to bring those troops home, but their withdrawal is not currently planned.