Assad's allies warn US against breach of 'red lines'

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List in Damascus, Syria, on April 6, 2017.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaking during an interview with Croatian newspaper Vecernji List in Damascus, Syria, on April 6, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

AMMAN • A joint command centre made up of the Russian, Iranian and allied militia alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said yesterday that the US strike on a Syrian airbase crossed "red lines". It will now respond to any new aggression and increase its level of support for its ally.

"What America waged in an aggression on Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on, we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is, and America knows our ability to respond well," said a statement published by the group.

The warning came as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Nikki Haley, said that with Mr Assad in power, Syria would not know peace. "There is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," she told the State of the Union programme on CNN.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping to fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to. He said the US expected Russia to take a tougher stance against Syria by rethinking its alliance with Mr Assad, because "every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility".

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call that aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law, the Kremlin said yesterday. They also called for an objective probe into the chemical attack.

In a separate phone call with Mr Assad, Mr Rouhani stressed Iran's support for the Syrian state in "its war against terrorism".

Meanwhile, the US-led task force fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has sharply cut air strikes against the militants in Syria, as commanders assess whether Syrian government forces or their allies plan to respond to the cruise missile strike, US officials said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, NYTIMES

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Assad's allies warn US against breach of 'red lines''. Print Edition | Subscribe