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The US-led missile strikes in Syria appear to have been carefully calculated to minimise any further escalation in the Syrian war, while going as far as possible to prevent any further chemical attacks on civilians.
Whether they have gone far enough remains to be seen.
Significantly, the US and its allies have confined their operation to Syrian military infrastructure, and explicitly avoided the possibility of Russian or Iranian casualties.
The missiles targeted three separate facilities linked to Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, including a research facility in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility in Homs — allegedly used to prepare the nerve agent sarin gas — and another nearby command post.
Britain says one of the targets was a former missile base, just west of Homs, where the Syrian regime was believed to have kept "chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of [its] obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention."
Certainly, the latest strikes have done more damage than a similar operation 12 months ago, when 59 US Tomahawk missiles targeted a military base at Shayrat, in central Syria.
Those strikes destroyed an airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations, and were retaliation for another chemical gas attack at Khan Sheikhoun, that killed around 90 people, an attack the United Nations later officially blamed on Syrian forces.
For all its firepower, the missile attack may again amount to just a warning — albeit stronger than last year's — that further chemical weapons attacks will incur similar retaliatory strikes.
President Donald Trump says Washington is prepared to "sustain pressure" on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad until he ends a criminal pattern of killing his own people with chemical weapons.
Those comments raised immediate questions as to whether the military operation would extend beyond an initial round of missile strikes.
US Defence Secretary James Mattis has since offered clarification, saying the strikes were a "one-time shot." But he also has not ruled out further attacks.
That depends now on the response from Syria, and its allies Russia and Iran.
Clearly, a limited strike by the US and its allies offers the best chance of limiting any retaliation.
It is impossible to know whether the latest strikes have destroyed all the remaining stockpiles of chemicals used to create sarin or other nerve agents.
Even if they have, there is no guarantee that chlorine gas attacks will not continue, given the relative ease of obtaining the chemicals used to make chlorine gas, and their widespread use in non-military industry and agriculture. Chlorine gas is easier to make and almost as lethal as sarin.
The Syrian Government pledged to destroy its entire chemical weapons stockpile in 2013, and signed up to the international chemical weapons treaty for the first time, after global condemnation of an earlier sarin attack — widely blamed on Syrian forces — that the US said killed 1,400 people at Ghouta.
For its part, the Syrian Government continues to deny that it was behind the latest chemical weapons attack, in Douma, and is yet to show how it plans to respond to the US-led strikes.
A pro-Syrian official said the Government in Damascus was still assessing the damage, but that advance warning from Russia allowed the timely evacuation of the targeted sites.
Russia has warned that "such actions will not be left without consequences".
But all sides know that any further escalation risks bringing the US and Russia into direct conflict, and bringing other US allies — particularly Britain and France — into the war.
At the UN, Russia accused the US, UK and France of "hooliganism in international relations", again claiming the attack at Douma was staged as an excuse for an attack on the Assad regime.
The scientific facilities targeted in Syria are used only for peaceful means, the Russian ambassador claimed, calling for a vote for the allied group to immediately end its aggressive actions.
US Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement after the Pentagon disclosed that Russia had increased its online troll activity by 2,000 per cent in the last 24 hours.
"Americans need to understand that the wars of the future will look more like this," he said.
"Russia is investing significant resources to create propaganda and disinformation.
"Kinetic, cyber, and information contests will overlap more and more in the coming years.
"The fog of war will not be limited to our situation rooms and battlefields; our enemies will work to create confusion and distrust among Americans here at home."
Several Democrats have questioned the administration's actions without congressional approval.
|Map: The Intercept|
Jenifer (Zarknorph) said:
Refugees who fled to Lebanon from the ongoing war in Syria are being forced to demolish their modest homes and live in tents as the Lebanese Government pushes for resettlement in Europe.
No surprise there - Lebanon has been devastated by Israel forcing on it 100s of thousands of destitute Palestinians.
Then triggering a Civil War by arming the Christians against Muslims generally, but especially against the Palestinians.
And Israel then coming in and killing the Palestinians - then coming in and killing vast numbers of native Lebanese.
I'm still waiting for evidence that Israel deliberately triggered the Civil War in Syria but I feel pretty sure that's what happened. Vans full of guns were driven to quiet towns in Syria, the doors left unlocked and local criminals invited to help themselves.
Zionism was forever based on stealing land - and they're on the march again in Syria, regular small mentions of it in the Israeli press.
Where's it going? The Intercept in 2018 believed its seen a glimpse of the future, the first phase is a 40km wide strip and it expands from there.
Couched in Zionist friendly language about stability and the support of locals, it sounds very credible:
ISRAEL’S “SAFE ZONE” IS CREEPING FARTHER INTO SYRIA
January 23 2018 - ISRAEL IS EXPANDING its influence and control deeper into opposition-held southern Syria, according to multiple sources in the area.
After failed attempts to ensure its interests were safeguarded by the major players in the war next door, Israel is pushing to implement the second phase of its “safe-zone” project ... deeper into the southern Syrian provinces of Quneitra and Daraa.
... The Intercept learned the outlines of the safe-zone expansion plan through a months long investigation relying on information from a variety of sources, including Syrian opposition activists on the ground in the south, Syrian opposition figures based in Jordan, Syrian government sources, and an Israeli-American NGO directly involved in the safe-zone project.
... Israel seized the Golan from Syria in 1967’s Six-Day War. Expanding a buffer zone would likely make any negotiations over the return of the Syrian territory more difficult in the future, because the Golan Heights will be surrounded on both sides by areas with significant Israeli influence.
Over the last two years, Israel started building out the first phase of a safe zone in southern Syria.
... According to sources, the second phase, which is currently underway, includes, among other things, the establishment of a 40-kilometer, Israeli-monitored buffer beyond the Golan Heights, a Syrian border police force armed and trained by Israel, and greater involvement in civil administration in opposition-controlled areas in two southern provinces ... both Quneitra and Daraa.
Israel has launched numerous strikes into Syrian territory, often understood to be efforts to keep advanced weapons out of the hands of hostile militants, like those in Lebanon’s Hezbollah. However, the buffer zone — and its expansion — stand as a deeper and more long-term investment in the Syrian war.
Last summer, I reported on Israel’s burgeoning support ... rebels speaking to the Wall Street Journal confirmed that the cash payments, which Israel claimed were purely humanitarian, were used for paying fighters’ salaries and purchasing weapons and ammunition.
... an Israeli official, who refused to speak under any other attribution, said, “It’s a ridiculous and unfounded claim, that Israel is creating a buffer zone. Israel provides humanitarian aid as part of its values and to help strengthen stability.”
... As the war drags on, more Syrians inside opposition areas are reluctantly accepting Israel’s influence and involvement in their communities ... still opposes Israel’s presence, he said, others have changed their minds: “When Israel gives people salaries, medication, food, and water, people start to like them, and honestly today, it is not a small number; it is a now a large number.”
The topic is Syrian refugees nothing else