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Furious response to coalition raids highlights growing divide between global powers

Apr 15, 2018

The military strikes against Syria provoked angry responses from Syria’s allies and ignited a debate over whether the attacks were justified.

US President Donald Trump criticized Syria’s two main allies, Russia and Iran, for their roles in supporting “murderous dictators,” and noted that Putin had guaranteed a 2013 international agreement for Assad to get rid of all his chemical weapons. 

 Putin denounced the raids as an aggression that will make the humanitarian crisis in Syria worse.

 The Russian leader said the strike had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.” He also reaffirmed Russia’s view that an alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma that prompted the strike was a fake.

 Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the US did not coordinate targets with or notify the Russian government of the strikes, beyond normal airspace “deconfliction” communications. But the description from an ally described things differently. French Defense Minister Florence Parly said that “with our allies, we ensured that the Russians were warned.”

 The Syria attack drew support from the European Union, Germany, Israel and other allies, while British Prime Minister Theresa May said the use of force was “right and legal.” 

 Many European leaders voiced support for the US-led airstrikes, but warned against allowing the seven-year conflict to escalate.

 Syrian rebels and opposition politicians said the Western powers should also have hit Assad’s conventional weapons, which have killed many more people during the war.

 “Maybe the regime will not use chemical weapons again, but it will not hesitate to use weapons… such as barrel bombs,” opposition leader Nasr Al-Hariri said in a tweet.

 A rebel fighter said he was bracing for further attacks by the government and its allies on rebel territory in the northwest, which a senior Iranian official has indicated could be the next target.

 Syrian state media called the attack a “flagrant violation of international law.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called it a crime and Western leaders criminals.

 But despite responding outwardly with fury to Saturday’s attack, Damascus and its allies also made clear that they considered it unlikely to meaningfully harm Assad.

 A senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters the Syrian government and its allies had “absorbed” the attack. The targeted sites had been evacuated days ago, thanks to a warning from Russia, the official said. “If it is finished and there is no second round, it will be considered limited,” the official said.

 The Iraqi foreign ministry said in a statement the air strikes marked a “a very dangerous development” and called on Arab leaders to discuss the situation at a summit in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

 Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the airstrikes, saying the operation sent a message to Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad.

 “With the joint operation by US, UK and France on Saturday, the Syrian regime received the message that its massacres wouldn’t be left unanswered,” Erdogan said.

 Jordan said only a political solution would guarantee Syria’s stability.

 “Continued violence will only lead to more violence, conflict, fighting and displacement whose victim is the Syrian people,” government spokesman Mohammad Al-Momani said in a statement.

 China’s foreign ministry said a political settlement is the only way to resolve the Syrian issue and called for a full, fair and objective investigation into suspected chemical weapons attacks.

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