Iran has accused the United States of a "dangerous escalation" in
Syria after Washington warned President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing another
chemical attack for which he would pay a "heavy price." "Another dangerous U.S. escalation in Syria on fake pretext," Iranian Foreign
Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted on June 27, adding it "will only serve
[the Islamic State extremist group] precisely when it's being wiped out by Iraqi
and Syrian people."
Iran's accusation came as French President Emmanuel Macron joined with U.S.
President Donald Trump in vowing a joint response against any new Syrian
Iran is Assad's closest ally along with Russia, which also denounced what the Kremlin called Washington's "unacceptable threats." Iran provides Assad with troops while Russia provides air support in his war against rebels and IS extremists.
Earlier on June 27, the United States said Syria's government appeared to be preparing for a chemical-weapons attack and warned that it would "pay a very heavy price" if one took place.
The Pentagon said that activity was detected at the Syrian Army's Shayrat airfield.
The White House said similar activities had been seen before the nerve agent sarin was allegedly dropped on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun in April.
Dozens of people were killed, prompting U.S, President Donald Trump to order a missile strike on the Shayrat airfield, from where the United States says jets departed before the Khan Sheikhun incident.
The Damascus government denies that it is preparing a chemical attack. President Assad has previously said the Khan Sheikhun incident was fabricated.
Meanwhile, President Macron of France agreed with Trump in a phone call on June 27 on "the need to work on a joint response in the event of a chemical attacks in Syria," the French presidency said.
Sky of Syria
(cartoon by Ali Jahanshahi, Iranian daily Ghanoon)
U.S. forces have increased their presence in Syria to about 1,000 in recent
months as the Pentagon steps up its campaign against the Islamic State (IS)
extremist group, which is being targeted by U.S.-backed rebel forces in its
stronghold of Raqqa.
But the U.S. forces have increasingly clashed with Iran-backed forces operating in the same battle space.
The United States has shot down several Iranian drones, bombed Iranian-backed militia allied with Syria, and shot down a Syrian jet that the Pentagon said was preparing to bomb U.S.-backed rebel troops.
The White House made it clear on June 27 that the latest warning against Syrian chemical attacks was not aimed only at Assad but targeted his allies as well.
"The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russia and Iran a message," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said.
Assad did not respond to the U.S. warnings as he toured an air base in western Syria that hosts Russian aircraft and troops on June 27. Accompanied by the Russian Army's chief of staff, General Valery Gerasimov, Assad climbed into the cockpit of a Russian Su-35 fighter jet.
"The Syrian people will not forget the support of their Russian brothers," Assad wrote in the visitors' book at the Hmeimim base.
With reporting by AP, dpa, BBC, and AFP
Copyright (c) 2017 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
Related Article by Derek Davison, LobeLog:
The Trump administration may be gearing up for another military strike against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military. Late in the day on Monday, the White House released a statement.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and neoconservative favorite, followed up the White House statement by tweeting, "Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people."
The White House hasn't offered any further comment as to the nature of the alleged "preparations" or how the U.S. "identified" them. On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said that U.S. intelligence had seen activity suggestive of chemical weapons preparations at Syria's Shayrat airbase over "the past day or two." But that information doesn't seem to have been immediately shared with all relevant government agencies.
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