Allies Rally Behind U.S. After Syria Strikes, Kremlin Continues Condemnation
RFE/RL April 08, 2017
Allies have rallied around the United States after it vowed to continue to pressure Syria following U.S. missile strikes in the war-torn country, as Russia continued to condemn the operation as illegal and "an act of aggression" against an independent country.
While the Kremlin, North Korea, and Iran all slammed U.S President Donald Trump for his decision to launch a barrage of missile strikes on a Syrian air base on April 7, many countries voiced support for the United States for its reaction to a chemical-weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces that killed dozens of men, women, and children.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who condemned Moscow's continued support of Assad, said on April 8 he had canceled a scheduled April 10 visit to Moscow as developments in Syria "have changed the situation fundamentally."
The official Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman, whose country has been a strong opponent of Assad, congratulated Trump in a phone conversation for his "courageous decision" and a correct response to "the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it."
Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, went as far as saying the U.S. missile strikes would only be "cosmetic" unless Assad was removed from power. Turkey has been a strong backer of the Syrian opposition in the six-year-long conflict.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is supposed to visit Russia next week, said he was "disappointed" but "not surprised" by Russia's angry reaction to the missile strikes.
"I'm disappointed in that response from the Russians because it indicates their continued support...for a regime that carries out these kinds of horrendous attacks on their own people." Tillerson said on April 7.
"I find it very disappointing, but sadly I have to tell you not all that surprising," he added.
Trump said the attack was intended to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians in a deadly incident this week.
The Pentagon said the Shayrat air base, which was partially destroyed by the attack, was the one used by Syria's air force to launch a nerve-gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4, killing at least 86 people.
Reuters quoted U.S. Navy Admiral Michelle Howard as saying on April 8 that the strikes had destroyed the means to deliver chemical weapons from that base, and that the U.S. military was ready to carry out further strikes if needed.
Trump officials on April 7 signaled new sanctions would soon follow the missile attack earlier in the day, and that the Pentagon was even looking into whether Russia had a role in the chemical-weapons attack that prompted Washington to launch 59 cruise missiles in its first-ever assault against Assad's regime.
Moscow has said the strikes violated international law and that it would suspend lines of communication with the U.S. military in Syria and help Syria increase its air defenses against future attacks.
Tillerson and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, spoke by phone on April 8 to discuss the situation in Syria following the attacks, TASS reported.
"Sergei Lavrov underscored that an attack on the country which government battles terrorism merely plays in extremists' hands and creates additional threats for regional and global security," TASS quoted the Russian Foreign
Ministry as saying.
Lavrov also spoke with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel by phone, where he stressed the U.S. reasoning for the strike was "unconvincing" and "untrue," TASS reported.
North Korea said on April 8 that it condemned the missile strikes as "an unforgivable act of aggression" that showed its decision to develop nuclear weapons was "the right choice a million times over," while Iranian President Hassan Rohani called for an impartial probe into the alleged chemical attack in Syria.
"We are asking for an impartial international fact-finding body to be set up...to find out where these chemical weapons came from," Rohani said as he condemned the U.S. missile strikes as an "aggression."
Tehran is Assad's main regional ally.
With reporting by AP, AFP, Interfax, and Reuters
Copyright (c) 2017. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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