Trump Warns Assad on Idlib "Reckless Attacks"

Clay Curtis
September 6, 2018

And of course, the paper inserts the obligatory swipe at Russian Federation, quoting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's comment that Idlib is a "festering abscess" that needs to be drained. "However we can not say there is no gateway to reconciliation".

An influx of displaced people has increased the area's population to roughly 2.5 million people.

Britain, France and the United States, which together launched limited attacks on Syrian installations in mid-April in retaliation for an alleged Syrian chemical attack, say their red line against illegal weapon use remains in force.

Reuters reported that three million live there.

President Donald Trump warned Syria and its allies Russian Federation and Iran on Monday against attacking the last major rebel stronghold of Idlib province in the country's northwest.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated Russia's position on Tuesday, calling Idlib a "hornets' nest of terrorists".

Speaking in the wake of a message on Twitter from the USA president, Vladimir Putin's spokesman said the army was preparing to solve the issue in what he called a "pocket of terrorism".

Iran echoed that theme.

A major military operation in Idlib is expected to pose a particular humanitarian nightmare because there is no nearby opposition territory left in Syria to where people could be evacuated.

"They are using people as human shields".

The Idlib area includes both rebel groups and militants such as the Nusrah Front.

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But U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on August 31 that Washington would consider an assault in Idlib by Assad's forces as an escalation of Syria's war.

Zarif said in Damascus that those talks also would focus on the battle against remaining militant groups that are fighting government forces in Syria.

USA officials have grown anxious that an assault on Idlib could involve the use of chemical weapons if the rebels are able to slow regime advances.

The Assad regime has been preparing for a full-scale military operation, amassing its forces around the last opposition bastion in Idlib near the Turkish border.

Zarif said the talks would be "a continuation of the three-way political round" that examines "the methods of how to confront extremist and terrorist groups, like Tahrir al-Sham".

"So, while we are aware that efforts and discussions are taking place to avoid the worst-case scenario, one can not ignore that miscalculations may indeed occur leading to unforeseen escalation and we are all very much concerned". The French Foreign Ministry is "ready to act" if Assad uses lethal chemical weapons, it said in a statement on Monday.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that terrorists should be "cleaned out" of Idlib.

The situation around Idlib will be one of the main items on the agenda when the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey meet in Tehran this week, Peskov told reporters on a conference call, declining to elaborate further.

The Russian air raids took place amid heavy ground shelling by the Syrian army, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Thousands of Syrian government troops and allied fighters have been massing in areas surrounding the province.

He did not release a timeframe and did not comment on reports that Russian warplanes had carried out airstrikes on Idlib earlier Tuesday.

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