World leaders have been United in their strong reaction to Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria. The countdown towards a U.S military strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime has begun.
The US and Russia, the world’s two most powerful militaries and biggest nuclear powers, appear set to clash over a chemical weapons attack in Syria as President Donald Trump tells Russia to “get ready” for a US missile strike.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
– Trump tweeted.
Trump’s tweet appeared to respond to a Russian diplomat threatening a counter-attack against planned US military action against the Syrian regime, which the US accuses of carrying out several chemical weapons attacks on its own people.
Here is a look at some assets the U.S military could use in the offensive.
Guided missile destroyers USS Donald Cook left port at Larnaca, Cyprus on Monday and is already within easy striking range of Syria.
Additionally the amphibious transport ship USS New York is underway to the Mediterranean.
The U.S Navy also has eight submarines deployed globally. Their location is a tightly held secret, but if one is in the Mediterranean it could be used in a cruise missile strike.
If the Pentagon decides to use manned aircrafts and drones, the U.S military has an intricate infrastructure in place in the region.
There are Rafale and Mirage fighter jets in West Africa. France could also launch Rafale fighter jets from French soil and use aerial refuelling to get them to their target.
Another possibility is launching strikes from French frigates equipped with cruise missiles. France permanently has such a ship in the eastern meditaranean.
Britannia has established a heavy military presence in the Syrian region. As of February z2018, Britain has conducted 1,700 air strikes against ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq from the Royal Air Force base in Akrotiri, Cyprus.
But Russia won’t make it easy
Syrian government forces are a different level of target to most US foes. Unlike ISIS fighters or Taliban militants, the Syrian government is backed by heavy Russian air defenses. This is where U.S F-22 fighters will make a strategic difference.
On the April 7 strike, it was US Navy ships which fired the missiles. If Russia were to retaliate against a US Navy ship with its own heavy navy presence in the region, the escalation would likely resemble an all-out war.
Vladimir Shamanov, a retired general who heads the defense affairs committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, would not rule out the use of nuclear weapons in an escalation with the US over Syria, saying only that it was “unlikely,” .
Currently, the US has destroyer ships in the region, the New as well as heavy air power at military bases around the region. While Russian air defenses seem credible on paper, they seem to have done nothing to stop repeated Israeli air strikes all around Syria.
U.S and Russia military superpower status on the line .
On both the Western and Russian sides of the conflict, credibility is on the line. The leaders of the US and France have explicitly warned against chemical weapons use, saying they will respond with force.
Russia has acted as a guarantor of Syria’s safety in the face of possible Western intervention, but has found itself undermined by several strikes from the US and Israel.
An outright war with the US would call Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bluff and betray his true aim of projecting power at low cost, while destroying much of his military.
Additionally, Syria, backed by Russia, has struggled to beat lightly-armed rebels who have lived under almost nonstop siege for the past seven years. A face of with the U.S, France and Britannia will not end well for Russia’s limited forces in the region.
For the US and France, failure to meaningfully intervene in the conflict would expose them as powerless in the face of Russian aggression, and unable to abate the suffering in Syria even with strong political will.
For now, the world has gone eerily quiet in anticipation of possible fighting.
God help us.