Lately the US has been talking up a possible attack on the Syrian army in response to its very successful offensive against the rebel Islamist enclave of Ghouta near Damascus:
The United States on Monday warned it was ready to act in Syria if needed to end chemical attacks and “inhuman suffering” as it pushed for a new 30-day ceasefire in Eastern Ghouta at the United Nations Security Council
The US ambassador [Nikki Haley] recalled that President Donald Trump had ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base in April last year in retaliation for a sarin gas attack blamed on President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.
“We also warn any nation that is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime: the United States remains prepared to act if we must,” Haley said.
The Russian military at least is taking the threat seriously. The chief of Russia’s armed forces has issued a warning of his own:
Moscow is ready to respond if lives of the Russian servicemen are endangered, including by strikes on Damascus, head of Russia’s General Staff Valery Gerasimov said.
“There are many Russian advisers, representatives of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of Opposing Sides and [Russian] servicemen in Damascus and at Syrian defense facilities,” Gerasimov stated.
In case lives of Russian military personnel are put in danger, the Russian Armed Forces will respond with certain measure to both “missiles” and “lauchers” which are delivering these projectiles.
What Gerasimov is saying here is two-fold:
- Any strikes in and around Damascus would almost certainly endanger Russian military personnel.
- If that were to happen, the Russian military will take measures against any missiles, and also against launch vehicles delivering the payload.
Meaning, the Russians won’t be passively absorbing US strikes. Instead they will use their potent anti-air defenses, including against any manned aircraft.
The US has so far struck the Syrian military on eight separate occasions. Mostly these attacks were carried out by its aircraft in the deserts in the east of the country.
The one time when US struck the Syrian army in the densely-populated west of the country, where most of Russian military personnel is located, it used cruise missiles fired from eastern Mediterranean instead — and coupled them with warnings to the Russian military that the missiles were on the way.
American saber rattling on Ghouta comes a month after its massive airstrikes involving AC-130 gunships and Apache helicopters killed 10-20 Russian private military contractors in eastern Syria who were not taking part in any fighting.
Clearly the Russians want the US to think long and hard whether it really wants to launch any more attack on Syrian government, and how it wants to go about doing that.