Speaking shoulder-to-shoulder with French President Emmanuel Macron from Paris, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his "readiness to work with allies on any military response in Syria if needed," after anti-government groups reported that the Syrian Army dropped a chlorine-filled munition which killed at least 60 people in the eastern Ghouta region last weekend.
“If our alliance with our partners requires it, we will be present,” said the Crown Prince, as he wrapped up a three-day visit to France.
Significant also that MBS is speaking from Paris next to Macron. This is a message to Russia as much as it is to Assad. Moscow has been trying to improve relations with GCC countries.— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 10, 2018
Saudi foreign minister Adel Al Jubier hinted at MbS's stance earlier, telling reporters "there are consultations among a number of countries with regards to what steps to take in order to deal with this issue," adding "Our position is that those responsible have to be held accountable and brought to justice."
The announcement from Paris come as President Trump has intensified preparations for a U.S. response to the suspected chemical weapons attack - canceling a planned trip to South America, deploying the Truman Carrier Strike Group to the Mediterranean, and giving a very dire sounding speech on the situation on Monday.
Pres. Trump on alleged chemical attack in Syria: "We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everyone else that will be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours." pic.twitter.com/rapLQISYJB— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) April 9, 2018
Apparently Trump feel a bit differently about Syria than he did just a few short years ago:
AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
Don't attack Syria - an attack that will bring nothing but trouble for the U.S. Focus on making our country strong and great again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2013
President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your "powder" for another (and more important) day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2013
So we guess Hillary was right?
Russia Vetoes UN Investigation
As we reported earlier, Russia vetoed a US-drafted and sponsored UN Security Council resolution to investigate the alleged chemical incident last weekend in Syria. Russia's UN envoy says the draft was designed to fail, which would thus "justify" unauthorized action in Syria.
Twelve council members voted in favor, while Bolivia joined Russia in voting no. A resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, France, Britain or the United States to pass. Most interesting was the abstention vote by China, which again suggested that when it comes to Syria, Beijing may side with Russia should a conflict break out.
"This resolution is the bare minimum that the council can do to respond to the attack," U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the council before the vote, referring to reports of a deadly poison gas attack in Syria's Douma.
To this, Russia’s envoy to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, responded that "we will not be able to support the American draft," adding that when Douma was allegedly targeted by chemical weapons, the US side declared it already knew who was at fault — "Animal Assad," Russia and Iran — so the US proposal appeared insincere. US President Donald Trump has already promised to respond "forcefully."
As we also reported earlier, Russia is pissed that the United States has parked the Tomahawk-equipped USS Donald Cook off Syrian waters - reportedly buzzing the warship several times.
According to Pravda, the Chairman of the State Duma Defence Committee Vladimir Shamanov said that the United States did not notify Russia of the approach of the group of US warships to the Russian naval base in Tartus.
"A group of ships of the US Navy has appeared at a distance of 150 miles from the Tartus region. It is common in international practice potential participants of events in the area should be notified accordingly in advance. We have not been notified, although we had legally ratified the agreement on two bases in Tartus and Khmeymim," the official said.
"Moreover, US President Donald Trump said that he would think about the missile attack on Syria despite any resolutions at the UN Security Council. All this smells of something are outside the framework of universally recognised international norms," Shamanov added, suggesting that Russia is preparing for a Syria attack.
"We have repeatedly warned the American side about highly negative consequences that may follow if they apply weapons against the legitimate Syrian government, and especially if the use of these weapons - God forbid, affects our military men, who legally stay in Syria," the Russian Ambassador to the UN said at the UN Security Council meeting.
The jammings reportedly started affecting some smaller drones several weeks ago, after a series of chemical weapons attacks on civilians in eastern Ghouta, an area near Damascus that's one of the last rebel-held strongholds near the Assad regime's territory. The Russian military was concerned - rightly, it appears - that the US would retaliate for the attacks (despite the US having "not yet conclusively determined whether the attack was carried out by...Assad"). So it began interfering with the GPS signals of some drones.
To sum it up:
#Syria FULL wrap-up:— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 10, 2018
•Decision imminent on Military action
•US-France-UK consultations as UNSC efforts stall
•Saudi on board; Qatar “see eye to eye” w Trump
•Mattis cancels weekend travel, Russia jams Syria airspace https://t.co/sucJIdqOSu
Oh, and Eurocontrol issued a 72-hour warning to civilian aircraft over the eastern Mediterranean...
European warning of civilian aircraft to close the skies over the eastern Mediterranean within 72 hours in anticipation of a military operation. pic.twitter.com/Xnqb9NYIdh— Eva J. Koulouriotis (@evacool_f) April 10, 2018