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How is Russia likely to respond to US strikes in Syria?

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Russia has long been threatening the US with "serious consequences" to its missile strikes against the Syrian regime over the alleged chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma, reported Al Jazeera (Qatar).

Speaking after the US air raid on Saturday, Anatoly Antonov, the Russian ambassador to Washington, reiterated that "such actions will not be left without consequences".

However, Lawrence Korb, former US assistant secretary of defence, told Al Jazeera that Russia's reaction would most probably be limited to the public condemnation since the Pentagon did not target the Russian military positions.

The first few hours after the strike indicated that Moscow was indeed taking that route.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin condemned the air raid in a statement published on the Kremlin's website without mentioning any plans for a retaliation. He said that Moscow called an urgent UN Security Council meeting to discuss the development.

The Russian media was spreading information on Saturday that the US strike aimed at preventing the investigators from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), who arrived in the country, from conducting a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma.

One of those voicing the accusation in the Russian press on Saturday was Leonid Slutsky, the head of the Russian parliament's committee on foreign affairs.

"Washington and its allies are trying to cover up their traces in the case of faking the gas attack in Syria's Douma," he said.

Russia possible scenarios
Fuad Shahbazov, a security and military expert focusing on Russia and the Middle East based in Azerbaijan, told Al Jazeera that Moscow is unlikely to limit itself to the anti-US rhetoric.

"[Russia's response] will include missile attacks against opposition forces and military positions of the US special forces," he said.

But a long-term ground operation against the rebels was highly unlikely, according to Shahbazov.

Russia sees Saturday's missile strike by the US and its French and British allies as the West's response to Moscow's growing role in the world, said Sergei Markov, a Russian political analyst and a former member of Putin's United Russia Party.

"This strike was, first and foremost, carried out against Russia's rising role in the world. Militarily, it is a strike against Syria. But politically, it is a strike against Russia," he said.

"Russia was warned about the attack in advance. The territory where the Russian military bases are located were not touched. This means that the US, Britain and France are trying to prevent a military confrontation with Russia in Syria. This is good."

He indicated that Moscow did not even need to respond militarily because the US strike was so much of a failure that it was "the sound of a closing door by the Americans who are leaving Syria".

"Soon, you will read in the Western press that the West handed over Syria to Putin. And that it cannot do anything against Assad and got off with symbolic strikes for saving its face."

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The US and its allies struck civil and military facilities in Syria, violating the UN Charter and international law, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, responding to the American-French-British intervention in Syria, reported Russia Today.

Washington launched “an aggression against a sovereign state which is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism,” the statement from the president said. Putin stressed that the multi-national strikes were not sanctioned by the UN Security Council, and were carried out “in violation of the UN Charter and principles of international law.”

What's more, the current escalation of the Syrian crisis has “a devastating impact on the whole system of international relations.” Yet, history will set things straight as “it has already found Washington responsible for massacres in Yugoslavia. In fact, by using force, Washington is only prompting a new wave of asylum-seekers from Syria and the whole region, according to the Russian leader.

Meanwhile, Russia is calling an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the aggressive actions of the US and its allies, the statement concluded.

Washington and its allies unleashed the bombardment in the early hours of Saturday in retaliation for the alleged chemical attack by the Assad government in the town of Douma, 10 kilometers from Damascus, last week. The strikes were conducted before a team of investigators from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was due to reach Douma to determine whether the attack had indeed taken place.

Syrian air defense systems have intercepted the majority of cruise missiles and air-surface missiles from the allies, the Russian Defense Ministry said earlier, adding that none of its own air defense units were involved in repelling the attack. According to the latest data from the Russian MoD, Syria intercepted at least 71 cruise missiles out of the 103 launched by the allies on Saturday.

Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei harshly criticized the airstrikes on Syrian soil, branding the leaders of the UK, US, and France “criminals.” He added that the attack will not result in any “benefits,” recalling the US-led operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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According to media sources close to the Iranian government, Russian heavy bombers are once again permitted to operate from Iranian military airfields, reported Zero Hedge (US).

Sources say that the development comes after an agreement was reached between Russian and Iranian high-level military-diplomatic officials. It gives Russian bombers the right to transit Iranian airspace and use at least two Iranian military airports for refueling.

Although unsaid, the development is most likely a response to recent US threats against the Syrian military – a close ally of both nations – following an alleged chemical attack in rural Damascus.

The information of development also comes after two Tu-95 and two Tu-22M heavy bombers were noted to have left their permanent base in Russia for an unknown destination.

During mid-2016, Russian Tu-22M bombers temporarily used the Iranian Hamadan Airbase amid a major bombing operation against Islamic State forces in eastern Syria.

(https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2018-04-13/russian-heavy-bombers-return-iran-syrian-operations?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=idealmedia&utm_campaign=zerohedge.com&utm_term=68708&utm_content=1)

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