Russia and Iran have responded to the unilateral cruise missile strike on Syria, telling the United States that they will “respond with force” if their own red lines are crossed. The Iranian-Russian coalition made this joint statement from their command center.
“What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well.”
The military strike on Friday, April 7, was in retaliation for a chemical warfare attack on Khan Sheikhoun earlier. Almost 60 Tomahawk missiles were used in the strike on the al Shayrat airbase, located near Homs. In a press conference where he announced the action, President Donald Trump was quick to say that the strike represented the world condemning Syrian forces for the heinous attack on civilians.
Russian Response to the Cruise Missile Attack
Russian Prime Minister, Dimitry Medvedev, quickly berated the United States, saying that the military strike was in violation of international law as well as normal procedures within the United States government. He also said that the strikes came extraordinarily close to clashing with Russian forces in the area. He also accused the United States of barely avoiding further conflict with Russia.
Russia has claimed that the Syrian strike by the Assad regime on the town of Khan Sheikhoun was an attempt to destroy a rebel-held chemical munitions storage depot. The destruction of the depot is what caused the chemical weapons to be dispersed in the civilian center. A representative of the Russian defense ministry, Major General Igor Konashenkov, stated that the depot was used to produce and store chemical munitions to be sent to Iraq. Russia offered no proof or evidence of their claim but said that the information had been fully verified.
Headed Toward Conflict?
The Iranian-Russian alliance to support Assad as he moves to consolidate his hold on Syria has repeatedly stated that the presence of United States troops in northern Syria is tantamount to an illegal occupation. For their part, the United States is loosely supporting the rebel forces, but are primarily focused on eliminating ISIL in Syria. This often brings their forces into contact with Russian and Syrian forces.
So far, no reports of conflict between Russian and American forces have been reported. However, with tensions escalating between the two countries, it will only take one incident to bring things quickly to a head.
The United States Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is headed to Moscow in the upcoming weeks to discuss Russian involvement in the international community and its role in the Assad regime. When speaking to ABC’s This Week, he went on record as saying that the failure that is directly related to the recent chemical attacks is “a failure on Russia’s part to achieve its commitment to the international community.”
Tillerson did not say directly that Russia was directly involved in the planning or executing the attack, but he does expect Russia to take a firmer stance with Assad. He continued by saying that every time an attack of this nature happened, “it draws Russia closer to some level of responsibility.”
What Are Russian Forces in the Area?
The Russians currently operate primarily out of a naval base in Tartus and the airbase in Khmeimim.
Russian air forces in the area include squadrons of Su-30 multirole fighter jets, Su-34 strike fighters, Tu-22M3 bombers, and MiG-29K multirole fighter jets. There are also other combat ready forces in place, including Mi-28, KA-52, and Mi-35 attack helicopters.
Ground forces include several thousand ground troops, mobile infantry, and modern battle tanks, complete with the logistics and infrastructure necessary to support their deployment.
In the waters surrounding Syria, the Russian navy has several missile cruisers in the area, multiple destroyers, and the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.
[Featured Image by Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Images]