Assad allies say US attack crosses ‘red lines’, call for probe

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A Syrian helicopter drops bombs on a rebel-held area of Daraa on Sunday. — AFP

AMMAN: A joint command centre made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad said the US strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed “red lines” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally.
The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the US role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad’s allies including Russia and Iran.
“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,” said a statement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to, saying Moscow had failed to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria.
He said the United States expected Russia to take a tougher stance against Syria by rethinking its alliance with Assad because “every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call that aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law, the Kremlin said on Sunday.
The two leaders also called for an objective investigation into an incident involving chemical weapons in Syria’s Idlib and said they were ready to deepen cooperation to fight terrorism, the Kremlin said in a statement.
Syrian army forces had been losing ground across the country until Russia intervened militarily in September 2015, propping up Assad and protecting its own interests in the region.
Assad has also drawn heavily on militias for his most important gains since the Russian intervention.
The joint command centre also said the presence of US troops in northern Syria where Washington has hundreds of special forces helping the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to oust IS was “illegal” and that Washington had a long-term plan to occupy the area.
The regional alliance said the US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian base which Washington said was involved in a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians would not deter their forces from “liberating” all of Syrian territory.
Many Syrians opposed to Assad’s rule consider Hezbollah and militias as occupiers seeking to drive out mainly Syrians from the areas they live in.
They hold Assad and its allies responsible for the displacement of millions.  — Reuters