U.S. Squares Up On Two Fronts •Deploys warships near North Korea •Iran Threatens War Over Syria

By on April 10, 2017

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U.S. Warship
U.S. Warship

The United States (U.S.) probably has its hands full at the moment with the growing possibility of major military engagements on two fronts. Recent report showed that China, on Monday, called on all parties to “show self-restraint” and avoid worsening the situation, two days after a group of US warships were ordered to change course and head to the waters off the Korean peninsula.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Hua Chunying told a press briefing when asked about China’s position on the deployment of the US warships“China is paying close attention to the development of the situation in the Korean peninsula.

“Under the current situation, each party should show self-restraint and not do anything that would cause the situation to escalate,’’ she said.“

US Pacific Command ordered the Carl Vinson Strike Group north as a prudent measure to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific,” said Commander Dave Benham, spokesman at US Pacific Command.

“The number one threat in the region continues to be North Korea, due to its reckless, irresponsible and destabilizing program of missile tests and pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability.”

The strike group includes the Nimitz-class aircraft supercarrier USS Carl Vinson, a carrier air wing, two guided-missile destroyers and a guided-missile cruiser.

The North has carried out five nuclear tests — two of them last year — and expert satellite imagery analysis suggests it could well be preparing for a sixth. US intelligence officials say Pyongyang could be less than two years away from developing a nuclear warhead that could reach the continental United States.

Last week Thursday and Friday, US President Donald Trump hosted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping for talks during which he pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to help curb the North’s nuclear weapons program. Trump has threatened unilateral action against the hermit state, a threat that appears more palpable after he ordered a strike on a Syrian airfield following an apparent chemical attack.

The head of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which provides missile detection and defense for the region, said Thursday she was “extremely confident” of US capability to intercept a potential intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bound for America from the North.

In Syria, the Pentagon believes the Syrian regime likely has additional chemical weapons stocks at the airfield struck by US missiles last week, but these were deliberately left untouched, an official said Monday. 

US President, Donald Trump US intelligence experts assess Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military is probably hoarding the weapons in munitions depots at Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria, the US military’s Central Command spokesman Colonel John Thomas said. 

President Donald Trump ordered a massive military strike on the air base last week, in retaliation for a “barbaric” chemical attack he blamed on Assad. “We suspected there was a significant probability there could be other chemical weapons which would be ready to go, weaponized in those facilities, and so we didn’t strike those,” Thomas told reporters. 

The chemical stocks were left untouched because the Pentagon did not want to risk unintentionally sending a plume of toxic gas across parts of Syria. Though the United States is confident Assad is stockpiling chemical weapons, intelligence analysts are not certain what these are. Under a 2013 Moscow-brokered deal, Assad was supposed to have dismantled Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal and ship it to Russia.

The Pentagon has said it is sure Assad unleashed a chemical attack on April 4 that killed at least 87 civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun. “Our advice was to make sure we didn’t inflict any greater damage by touching any of the chemical weapons in the area,” Thomas added.

“We were trying to degrade their capability to launch aircraft and to load them up with chemical weapons.” 

The Pentagon says the strike destroyed more than 20 Syrian jets but the military has come under criticism for not targeting Shayrat’s runways, amid reports regime planes were again using the base hours after the attack by 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. 

Thomas said the runways were deliberately avoided because the United States was trying to draw a clear line that its military action was in response to the suspected chemical attack, and not signal a willingness to get more involved in Syria’s brutal civil war. 

US forces gave Moscow a heads up shortly before Friday’s strike, as Russian personnel and equipment were based at Shayrat under Russia’s ongoing military intervention to prop up Assad. Moscow reacted furiously to the US strike and immediately threatened to suspend a vital hotline established to avoid mishaps between the two powers in Syria. 

Also, the United States has made slight adjustments to its military activities in Syria to strengthen protection of American forces following cruise missile strikes last week on a Syrian air base that heightened tensions, U.S. officials told Reuters on Monday.

The officials, citing the need to safeguard operations in Syria, declined to specify what exact measures the United States has taken after the strikes, which Damascus, Tehran and Moscow have roundly condemned. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

Asked about the Reuters report, a U.S. military spokesman later told a Pentagon news briefing that the U.S. commander for the campaign has been “calling in the resources that he needs” to protect U.S. forces in the wake of the strikes.

The United States, has, however, stepped up pressure on Russia to rein in the Syrian regime, warning that any further chemical attacks would be "very damaging" to their relationship and suggesting there can be no peace while President Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

It will be their first face-to-face encounter since US cruise missiles slammed into a Syrian air base early Friday Damascus time in retaliation for a suspected sarin gas attack on April 4 that killed at least 87 civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun. In Tehran, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States had made a “strategic mistake,” and vowed that Iran “will not leave the field... in the face of threats.”

And a joint operations center in Damascus that includes Iran, Russia and Lebanon-based Hezbollah militants threatened reprisals. “We will react firmly to any aggression against Syria and to any infringement of red lines, whoever carries them out,” it said in a statement carried on the website of Al-Watan, a newspaper close to the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, US-led coalition forces and Syrian rebels thwarted a significant Islamic State group attack on their base near the Jordanian border last Saturday. The coalition said the attack on the At-Tanf Garrison, a remote outpost used by elite US and British forces, was a complex one involving a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, followed by a ground assault and suicide vests by up to 30 IS fighters.

Source cattnews

Posted 10/04/2017 9:01:01 PM

 

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