The Trump Administration which has information that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons in order to recapture one of the country’s last rebel-held areas, has told Russia that it is ready to respond with stronger military action than it has used against Assad’s regime in the past.
According to Bloomberg’s anonymous sources, American Ambassador John Bolton told Russian Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev that America is prepared to respond with greater force than it has used in Syria before. The meeting between the Americans and Russians happened on Thursday in Geneva. U.S. officials have not confirmed the information provided by Bloomberg,
In April, President Donald Trump said that he will punish Assad for any further use of chemical weapons, after ordering two limited strikes in similar circumstances since taking office early last year. But the latest warning is more specific, and it comes on the eve of what may be one of the bloodiest campaigns in Syria’s civil war.
Bloomberg’s sources claim that unlike previous, “largely symbolic” attacks, Bolton’s warning was more specific and refers to the concrete campaign in Idlib. This is the last province in the country held by multiple anti-government militant groups.
Since 2017, the US and some other Coalition nations have also targeted military positions of the Syrian Government. The United States first supplied the rebels of the Free Syrian Army with non-lethal aid (including food rations and pickup trucks), but quickly began providing training, cash, and intelligence to selected Syrian rebel commanders. During the Syrian Civil War, which began in 2011, two US programs attempted to assist the Syrian rebels. One was a military program that planned to train and equip 15,000 Syrian rebels, but was canceled in 2015 after spending $500 million and producing only a few dozen fighters. A $1 billion covert program run by the CIA was more successful, but was decimated by Russian bombing and canceled in mid-2017 by the Trump administration.
The United States began surveillance missions on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) positions in Syria in September 2014. On 22 September 2014, the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates began to attack the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant forces inside Syria, as well as the Khorasan group in the Idlib Governorate to the west of Aleppo and the al-Nusra Front around Raqqa, as part of the military intervention against ISIL.
The missile strike on the Shayrat Airbase conducted by the U.S. on April 7, 2017, was the first time the US has become a deliberate direct combatant against the Syrian government, and marked the start of a series of deliberate direct military action by the U.S. military against the Syrian government′s and pro-government forces in May–June 2017 and February 2018.
In mid-January 2018, the Trump administration indicated that it intended to maintain an open-ended military presence in Syria to counter Iran′s influence and oust Syrian president Bashar Assad.