By Dave Sewell
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Air strike in Syria escalates tensions between the US and Russia

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Issue 2549
US Navy jets on a bombing mission over Iraq and Syria
US Navy jets on a bombing mission over Iraq and Syria (Pic: US Navy/Shawn Nickel/Wiki Commons)

A major US missile strike against the Russian-backed Syrian regime has brought the world’s biggest superpowers closer to military confrontation.

US forces fired 59 cruise missiles from two warships in the eastern Mediterranean at a Syrian airbase today, Friday.

The attack— ordered by Donald Trump and supported by the likes of Theresa May, Tim Farron and Tom Watson—will do nothing to aid the Syrian people.

Trump spoke of his horror at the deaths resulting from a chemical weapons attack earlier this week.

His supposed sympathy for the “beautiful babies” that were killed rings hollow when he has repeatedly tried to stop all Syrian refugees coming to the US. That means they were left to suffer and die.

One eyewitness told the BBC that a “huge” blast left total devastation at Shayrat Airfield. The Syrian army reported six people were killed and seven injured. 

Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis boasted that it had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.”


Since 2015 US and Russian forces, both bombing Isis, have exchanged information to avoid clashes.  The Russian government responded to the air strike by saying it would end this “deconfliction line”.

It called the US operation “a clear act of aggression against a sovereign Syria”.

Russian media also claimed that only 23 of the 59 missiles had hit their target.

The real number may be higher but, despite boasts of “smart” bombs and precision targeting, air campaigns always wreak deadly “collateral damage”.

Trump and his closest allies played down the prospects for rapid escalation. Davis said it was “the regime’s choice” whether more attacks followed.

Britain’s forces are pounding Iraq and Syria as part of a bloody US-led campaign against Isis. Tory defence secretary Michael Fallon said that while the airstrike was “entirely appropriate”, “we don’t see it as the start of a new campaign”.

But the attack set a precedent, and many politicians who once opposed Trump are now egging him on to go further.


Hours before the attack, his former presidential rival Hillary Clinton said that “we should have and still should take out” Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s airfields.

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham praised a “credible first step”, but said the important thing was to “to take Assad’s air force… completely out of the fight.”

Guy Verhofstadt, head of the liberal group in the European parliament, called it the “first time I’m not totally opposed to Trump”.

Attacking the regime is a big turnaround for Trump. It’s not his first military action. US forces recently stepped up their involvement in the Saudi war on Yemen.

But he had previously stood for softening the tension between the US and Russia, to the point that many US liberals accused him of being Russia’s puppet.

His turn against it came a day after the sacking of Stephen Bannon, a senior adviser drawn from the white supremacist “alt-right” and resented by much of the establishment.

It could signal a success by that establishment to drag the loose cannon Trump in line with their agenda.

Whatever the reason, it’s bad news for Syrians. If US, British and European governments were really concerned for their welfare they would lift their deadly blockade on Syrian refugees.

Russian claims that the regime’s chemical attack was faked are far-fetched. It’s certainly a brutal dictatorship at war with its own people.

But Western bombs helped turn the Middle East into a killing field and more will only add to the carnage.

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