UN Ambassador Nikki Haley issued a warning to Russia and Iran today, saying that continued attacks on the last opposition stronghold in Idlib, Syria could result in “dire” consequences. From CNN:
During what was the second session on Idlib in four days, Haley told the council that “the world has seen a clear military escalation” this month by Russia and the Syrian regime, whose forces have conducted more than 100 airstrikes, using “barrel bombs, rockets and artillery” in an attempt to retake the last rebel holdout after more than seven years of war…
“If Assad, Russia and Iran continue down the path they are on, the consequences will be dire,” she said.
“I also want to reiterate what I said last week to the Assad regime and anyone else contemplating the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” Haley added. “The United States followed through when we said that we would respond to the use of chemical weapons. We stand by this warning.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis declined to say Tuesday whether the US would take military action against the Syrian regime should it use chemical weapons, but he did say Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has “been warned.”
There are said to be around 3 million people in Idlib, with a large percentage of them children. So the concern is that Assad and Russia are going to use the same strategy here they’ve used in other places in Syria, i.e. Russian airstrikes followed by a siege to cut off food and water and, possibly, the use of chemical weapons. Last week President Trump himself warned Russia and Iran not to “recklessly” attack Idlib Province.
But shortly after that tweet the airstrikes began:
Intensive air raids targeting #Jisr_Alshoughor and the villages in the western countryside of #Idlib, #WhiteHelmets teams are working to respond urgently to evacuate the wounded from the targeted areas. pic.twitter.com/yRttNptXG0
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) September 4, 2018
And it’s not just the millions of people who could be impacted. A full-scale attack is likely to create another surge of refugees fleeing the country:
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted, Russia pledged to preserve Idlib as a “deescalation zone” and end the war through diplomacy. Yet it now appears poised to throw its planes behind an assault by the government of Bashar al-Assad, also backed by Iran, to capture the territory by force. Moscow cites the presence of an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group, which controls much of Idlib; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says it is a “festering abscess” that must be “liquidated.” But the United Nations’ Syria envoy estimates there are only about 10,000 fighters in the extremist group. If they follow their usual modus operandi, the Assad, Iranian and Russian forces will fight them by systematically targeting the civilian population and infrastructure, including food markets, schools and hospitals.
The damage could spread far beyond Syria. A full-scale offensive could send hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming north toward Turkey, where some 3.5 million Syrians already are harbored.
Bottom line, there is a real potential for catastrophe here and Russia and Iran clearly don’t care so long as they can claim victory and prop up their puppet Asssad. If things escalate, and especially if there is another use of chemical weapons, it’s very likely the US will intervene with more than strong words. Here are Nikki Haley’s full remarks.