Russia and Iran blast US strike on their ally Assad’s airbase
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Russia and Iran blast US strike on their ally Assad’s airbase

Moscow, Tehran claim raid a violation of international law; Saudi Arabia hails ‘courageous decision’ by Trump to retaliate for chemical weapons use

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 28, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin/AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) shakes hands with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 28, 2017. (Sergei Karpukhin/AFP)

Iran and Russia, allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad, on Friday condemned the US missile strike on a Syrian airbase overnight while Saudi Arabia hailed the military action as “courageous.”

The strike, ordered by US President Donald Trump, came as retaliation for a deadly chemical weapons attack Tuesday in the northern Syrian province of Idlib that left at least 86 people dead, including 27 children, and allegedly employed the nerve agent sarin. Footage of people and children choking on the gas prompted outrage across the globe.

A US official said 59 precision guided missiles hit the regime-held Shayrat Airfield, north of the Syrian capital Damascus, from which Washington believes Tuesday’s deadly attack was launched.

Russian President Vladimir Putin considers the US strike as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday, according to Russian agencies.

Washington said that Russian military officials in Syria were informed of the strike beforehand in order to avoid casualties that could prompt a broader crisis.

“The Syrian army does not have any chemical weapon stockpiles,” added Peskov. “The fact of destruction of all chemical weapon stockpiles of the Syrian armed forces was recorded and confirmed by the (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons).”

“This step by Washington inflicts considerable damage to US-Russia relations, which are already in a lamentable state,” Peskov added.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi also condemned the US move, saying the “unilateral action is dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law,” according to a report carried Friday by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Iran is one of the biggest supporters of Assad. Its hard-line paramilitary Revolutionary Guard is deeply involved in the war, as is its proxy Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based terror group.

Ghasemi described Iran as “the biggest victim of chemical weapons in recent history,” referencing Iraqi use of the weapons during its 1980s war with the Islamic Republic. He said Iran condemned the missile launch “regardless of the perpetrators and the victims” of Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria.

In this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)
In this image provided by the US Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017.(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams/U.S. Navy via AP)

He also warned it would “strengthen terrorists” and further add to “the complexity of the situation in Syria and the region.”

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, praised the cruise missiles strike as a “courageous decision” by Trump.

US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)
US President Donald Trump and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman speak to the media in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, on March 14, 2017. (AFP/Nicholas Kamm)

A statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency on Friday firmly blamed the government of Assad for the chemical weapons attack.

“Saudi Arabia fully supports the US military operations against military targets in Syria, which were a response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons against innocent civilians,” a foreign ministry official told the state SPA news agency.

The official said the regime had only itself to blame after “odious crimes it had committed for years against the Syrian people.”

Syrian children receive treatment following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, April 4, 2017. (AFP/Mohamed al-Bakour)
Syrian children receive treatment following a suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, a rebel-held town in the northwestern Syrian Idlib province, April 4, 2017. (AFP/Mohamed al-Bakour)

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the missile launch by Trump was the right response to “the crimes of this regime to its people in light of the failure of the international community to stop it.”

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia is a longtime opponent of Assad and has supported the rebels fighting against him. It also views the long-running war as a proxy conflict between it and its Middle East archrival, the Shiite power Iran.

Saudi Arabia had been deeply critical of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama’s 2013 decision to hold off on military reprisals against the Syrian regime after a previous suspected gas attack and instead strike a deal with Russia for the UN-supervised destruction of its chemical arsenal.

Israeli leaders on Friday morning offered wall-to-wall praise for Trump for ordering the strike. The United Kingdom, Turkey, and Australia also voiced support for the airstrikes.

The Syrian army said that six people were killed and serious damage caused by the US military campaign.

“At 3:42 am (0042 GMT) the United States carried out a flagrant aggression with missiles against one of our airbases in the central region, killing six people and wounding a number of others, and causing significant damage,” a spokesman said, reading from a statement on state television. He did not specify whether the casualties were civilian or military.

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