Russia, Iran condemn U.S. missile strikes on Syrian airfield after chemical weapons attack

US Syria - Edward Lawrence 4-7-2017

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes U.S. missile strikes on a Syrian airfield in retaliation to a chemical attack on civilians are an “act of aggression,” according to his spokesman. Iran said the action is "dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”

President Trump said he ordered the strikes early Friday local time in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province that killed 86 people on Tuesday.

“President Putin considers the U.S. strikes against Syria an aggression against a sovereign country violating the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday, according to the TASS news agency.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bahram Ghasemi, said Iran condemned the U.S. action “regardless of the perpetrators and the victims” of the chemical weapons attack, and warned that it would “strengthen terrorists” and add to “the complexity of the situation in Syria and the region,” in comments carried by the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Russia claimed the deaths Tuesday were caused by a Syrian strike on a terrorist chemical weapons facility, but the U.S., other nations and human rights groups rejected that argument as baseless.

Russia and Iran are allies of Assad.

The 59 missiles, fired from the destroyers USS Porter and Ross in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, struck the airfield where Syria based the warplanes used in the chemical attack, according to Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. The missiles destroyed aircraft, hardened hangars, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems and radar at the Shayrat Airfield.

Peskov said Putin believed that Washington’s “total disregard for the use of chemical weapons by terrorists only exacerbates the situation significantly.”

"Putin also sees the strikes on Syria by the U.S. as an attempt to divert the attention of the international community from numerous civilians casualties in Iraq. Washington’s move impairs the Russian-U.S. relations, which are in a deplorable state, substantially," Peskov added, according to TASS.

Trump said Assad "launched a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent.

“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said Thursday.

Homs governor Talal Barazi told The Associated Press that the U.S. missile strikes killed three soldiers and two civilians and wounded seven other people. A Syrian opposition monitor said the attack killed four soldiers, the AP reported.

The attack was the first conventional assault on another country ordered by Trump.

Saudi Arabia praised Trump’s “courageous decision” and blamed Assad’s government for the chemical weapons attack.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said the missile launch ordered 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,” the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also expressed his support for the strike Friday.

"In words and actions President Trump sent a strong and clear response: The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable. Israel fully and unequivocally supports the president's decision and hopes the clear message will reverberate not only in Damascus but also in Tehran, Pyongyang and other places," Netanyahu said, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Autopsies on three Syrians who died after being brought to Turkey for treatment suggest the banned nerve agent sarin was used in the chemical attack, the Turkish Health Ministry said.

Turkey, which also is involved in the fighting, has long pushed for Assad's ouster.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook and Gregory Korte 

USA TODAY


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