The White House statement “puts Russia on notice” over Eastern Ghouta
Trump: US will not tolerate the atrocities of the Assad regime
With the reported death toll in Eastern Ghouta exceeding 670 since the air bombardment started on February 13, the US administration upped the ante on Friday, threatening the Assad regime that it “will not tolerate the atrocities” and calling on Russia to immediately uphold a ceasefire all over Syria.
The White House, following Donald Trump calls to Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, issued a statement on Friday that stresses the urgency of the situation in Syria.
The leaders agreed that “the Syrian regime, and its Russian and Iranian supporters, should immediately and fully implement United Nations Security Council Resolution 2401” calling for an immediate ceasefire across Syria, it said.
It addressed Moscow directly, calling for a halt of its bombing in Eastern Ghouta, and to pressure “the Assad regime to halt offensive operations against civilian areas, and to hold Syria accountable for the deteriorating human rights conditions...caused in part by the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical weapons, attacks on civilians, and blocking of humanitarian aid”.
In a clear escalation in tone, the White House said “the United States will not tolerate the atrocities of the Assad regime”.
Also, responding to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments about his new arsenal on Thursday, the three leaders “shared their serious concerns over Putin’s recent statements on nuclear weapons development, which they agreed detract from productive discussion of a range of issues between Russia and the West”.
Mr Trump’s audience is “not Assad but Putin” said Nicholas Heras, a fellow who studies Syria at the Center for New American Security.
The US President is “putting Russia on notice” Mr Heras told The National. “He is reacting viscerally to the footage coming out of Eastern Ghouta of starving children, hospitals being blasted to rubble, and to chemical weapons being used against civilians.”
Last April, the Trump administration launched airstrikes against an Assad airbase south of Homs for his use of Chemical weapons.
Asked about the White House options today if the bombardment of Eastern Ghouta continues, Mr Heras said: “Donald Trump knows that [former US President Barack] Obama was roundly criticised for allowing Aleppo to become a pulverized graveyard, and he looks set to show that he is not Obama.”
If no ceasefire is implemented, and if Mr Trump wants to be tougher than his predecessor on Syria, then the option of punitive US military strikes is on the table explained Mr Heras, “equal to or greater than the one used last year.”