President Donald Trump issued a warning on Monday to Syria and its allies Russia and Iran against attacking rebels in the country’s Idlib province, saying it would be a “grave humanitarian mistake.”
“President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy,” the President wrote, adding that “hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.”
President Trump’s comments echoed those of his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who only days earlier had told Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that an attack on Idlib was something that Syria and Russia said they wouldn’t allow and that the United States “sees this as an escalation of an already dangerous conflict.”
“Sergey Lavrov is defending Syrian and Russian assault on #Idlib. The Russians and Assad agreed not to permit this. The U.S sees this as an escalation of an already dangerous conflict,” Pompeo wrote last week.
The President’s tweet followed comments by Iran’s foreign minister that “terrorists must be purged” from Idlib and comes at a time when fears among U.S. officials that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad may use chemical weapons are growing.
“Syria’s territorial integrity should be safeguarded and all tribes and groups, as one society, should start the reconstruction process, and the refugees should return to their homes,” Iran’s Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
According to two defense officials, Assad’s regime has been preparing for an attack on Idlib, moving armed helicopters closer to the area, which could possibly be used to launch a chemical attack.
UN officials maintain that an offensive on Idlib would result in about 800,000 people being displaced and would discourage refugees from returning home, Fox News writes. The U.S. and France have further warned an Idlib offensive would trigger a humanitarian crisis and have vowed to retaliate should the Syrian regime launch a chemical attack.
“All eyes on the actions of Assad, Russia, and Iran in Idlib, #NoChemicalWeapons,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, posted on Twitter.