Russia: Syrian fighters planning imminent ‘provocation’

Russia: Syrian fighters planning imminent ‘provocation’
Syrian rebel fighters from the recently-formed "National Liberation Front" walk at an unknown location in the northern countryside of the Idlib province on September 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2018

Russia: Syrian fighters planning imminent ‘provocation’

Russia: Syrian fighters planning imminent ‘provocation’
  • The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday failed to agree on a cease-fire that would forestall an offensive
  • Dunford declined to comment on US intelligence about the possible Syrian preparations of chemical agents

MOSCOW: Russia on Saturday said it had “irrefutable information” Syrian fighters were planning an imminent “provocation” in Idlib province to justify Western intervention.
Moscow has long said anti-regime groups in the last major opposition bastion were planning an attack on civilians, as Russian and regime strikes on the province intensify.
“Those taking part in the staging of provocations should be fully ready by the evening of Sept. 8,” the Russian military's spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.
He said Moscow had evidence leaders of “terrorist” groups had gathered in Idlib and were being aided by the White Helmets volunteer rescue service.
In April, the US, France and Britain launched joint missile strikes on Syrian targets in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma that left scores of people dead.
Russia stuck by its ally Syria and angrily insisted the Douma attack was staged by the White Helmets.
The White House has warned that the US and its allies would respond “swiftly and vigorously” if regime forces used chemical weapons in Idlib.
America’s top general said he was involved in “routine dialogue” with the White House about military options should Syria ignore US warnings against using chemical weapons in Idlib.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no decision had been made by the US to employ military force in response to a future chemical attack in Syria.
“But we are in a dialogue, a routine dialogue, with the president to make sure he knows where we are with regard to planning in the event that chemical weapons are used,” he told a small group of reporters during a trip to India.
Dunford later added: “He expects us to have military options and we have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”
France’s top military official also said last week his forces were prepared to carry out strikes on Syrian targets if chemical weapons were used in Idlib.
Dunford declined to comment on US intelligence about the possible Syrian preparations of chemical agents.
The presidents of Turkey, Iran and Russia on Friday failed to agree on a cease-fire that would forestall an offensive.
Asked whether there was still a chance the assault on Idlib could be averted, Dunford said: “I don’t know if there’s anything that can stop it.”
He added: “It’s certainly disappointing but perhaps not (surprising) that the Russians, the Turks and the Iranians weren’t able to come up with a solution yesterday.”
Dunford has warned about the potential for a humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib and instead has recommended more narrowly tailored operations against militants there.
“There’s a more effective way to do counterterrorism operations than major conventional operations in Idlib,” he said.