The US is considering new military strikes against Syrian government positions, while France is keen to support such an operation, diplomatic sources say.
A diplomatic source close to the Syrian opposition told the Middle East Eye (MEE) news portal on Thursday that some in the US administration are “keen to take a tougher line on Russia in Syria.”
The new stance comes as US-led coalition forces on Wednesday night launched an aerial attack on pro-Damascus forces in Syria’s eastern Dayr al-Zawr province during a military the so-called US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
A US official said the attack killed over 100 pro-government forces.
The Syrian government has denounced the deadly strike as a “war crime,” lambasting Washington for using “the excuse of fighting terrorism to set up illegitimate bases on Syrian territory.”
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians. It has also been largely incapable of fulfilling its declared aim of destroying Daesh.
Damascus has on several occasions called for US troops to leave Syria now that the fight against Daesh is over.
The Syrian government, backed by Russian air cover, has managed to push back the terrorists turf after turf. The Arab country flushed Daesh out of its last stronghold in November.
According to the sources, the planned US-French action on Syria would likely be carried out under the pretext of responding to the ongoing use of chemical weapons, which the White House blames on the Syrian government.
The sources said the “rhetoric from the US is changing,” and the administration is weighing up something similar to its cruise missile attack on an Idlib airbase last April.
More than 80 people died in the April 4, 2017 sarin gas attack on Khan Shaykhun in Idlib Province.
The United States and the militants operating in the area blamed the Syrian government for the deadly incident. Syria and Russia, however, rejected the claims, suggesting that a militant weapon may have detonated on the ground.
Damascus argues that it has no reason to resort to chemical weapons while its forces have the upper hand in the fight against terrorists.
The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry. The deal was negotiated by Russia and the United States.
Senior US officials cautioned last week that the administration is again prepared to take military action against Syrian government forces if necessary to deter what they called the use of chemical weapons.
The sources close to the opposition said French President Emmanuel Macron is keen to support the US militarily in any new targeted attack.
Asked by MEE whether Paris was ruling out military action or supporting US military action against Syrian government positions, a French diplomatic source said, “no further comment.”
French academic and Syria expert, Thomas Pierret, told MEE that if US President Donald “Trump decides to act, France will follow.”
The US Central Command said that, “We don’t announce future military plans for operational security reasons.”