Syria Update 11th April 2018

This morning it was reported that Russia’s envoy to Lebanon has warned that any missiles fired at Syria by the US will be targeted and shot-down and their launchers targeted for destruction. The Russian ambassador to Lebanon was citing an earlier statement from mid-March by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Russian military. A Russian delegation of MPs is reportedly scheduled to arrive in Damascus today and they are tied to the 2-3000 Russian mercenaries fighting in Syria in hopes of deterring US strikes.

President Trump tweeted his response to the Russian threat, further warning that missiles were coming and that they were new and “smart.” The reference to “smart” weapons would have clear meaning to Russian military leaders. It has been referenced in the press that President Trump has spoken with British Prime Minister Theresa May. US, British, and French forces in the Mediterranean have stepped up their alert status.

At the same time Iran has threatened to attack Israel over Israeli airstrikes on Syria’s T4 airfield this weekend that killed 15 people including three Iranians likely of the Revolutionary Guard. Israel’s response to Iran’s threat was that they would remove the Assad regime. There are reports that Hezbollah has now vacated several sites in Syria ahead of possible US-led air strikes. It appears air defenses have been strengthened around President Assad’s home compound.

The World Health Organization has stated that it is treating victims of this weekend’s Douma chemical weapons attack consistent with a pulmonary/choking agent and a nerve agent. This is the eighth chemical weapons attack in Syria since the US attacked Syria in April of 2017 over a chemical attack on Syria’s own people in Khan Skeikoun using sarin nerve gas.

This afternoon, it was reported that US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has gone to the White House with the US military chiefs to brief President Trump on military options to punish Syria for its chemical attack on Douma. CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel has cancelled a previously scheduled meeting in New York City tomorrow. British Prime Minister May has signaled that British forces are prepared to join US and French forces for strikes on Syria and has said that the matter does not require Parliamentary debate. French Rafale fighter aircraft have reportedly been placed on alert at St. Dizier airbase in France and US tanker aircraft are being forward deployed from bases in the UK. As well, there are reports that the USS Eisenhower carrier battle group is steaming to the region.

Like early reports that Hezbollah has left certain sites in Syria and was likely joined by their Iranian masters in doing so, Russian warships have reportedly left the Syrian military Port at Tartus. There are reports that the Russian warships are preparing to engage in live fire drills off the Syrian coast, but it looks more like temporary evacuation of the port ahead of US-led strikes. Pro-opposition forces on the ground in Syria have said that the Syrian regime has evacuated the Jomrayah Research Center linked to Assad’s chemical weapons program and that other key facilities are being evacuated or downsized ahead of expected US strikes.

Russia has also warned Israel to avoid any further military action against Syria.

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