Despite dire US warnings and fears of a humanitarian disaster, the Trump administration has little leverage to stop Russia, Iran and Syria pressing ahead with a massive military assault against Syria's northwest Idlib province.
"If the regime uses CW [chemical weapons] - which it has throughout the war - then the USA will likely strike Assad regime targets", says Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
"When they decide to take an area, they first attack hospitals".
NEW DELHI-The top USA military commander said Saturday he is engaged in "routine dialogue" with the White House about options should the Syrian government use chemical weapons in an expected assault on the northern rebel stronghold in the province of Idlib.
The attacks come amid repeated warnings from the USA against an all-out assault by Syria's Russian-backed forces to retake Idlib, the last major area held by the armed opposition in Syria.
U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura warned the council that there were "all the ingredients for a flawless storm" in Idlib and the United Nations was ready to work with all parties on evacuation routes if they were required.
The White House said this week that U.S. President Donald Trump had warned that such attacks would be "a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict" and "risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people".
A critical summit between the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey to find common ground on Syria's rebel-held province of Idlib descended into televised drama today, as Russia's Vladimir Putin and Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan aired their differences before the cameras. He told Iranian state-run TV on Thursday night that, "the final statement was finalized through negotiations in Tehran and if approved by the three presidents it will be rolled out as the final statement".
De Mistura is to hold talks next week with the three guarantors in Geneva next week.
Mr Erdogan called for a "truce" at a press conference after the talks.
"The shocking civilian death tolls and war crimes witnessed recently in other parts of Syrian such as eastern Aleppo city, Eastern Ghouta and Daraa must not be repeated in Idlib", Samah Hadid, Middle East director of Amnesty International, said.
Part of the motivation for this change is uncertainty about whether Russian Federation is willing or able to help get Iran - which along with Russian Federation is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's closest ally - out of the country. The Assad regime "must pause" its offensive. "It is in their power to do so". -Turkish relations deteriorate. Ties have been strained in part over Turkey's detention of a US pastor whose release the United States has demanded.
Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been almost completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the global community.
The Turkish president said earlier this week he has plans to ditch the U.S. dollar in trade with Iran and instead use local currencies.
Mostafa said he had lost two brothers during the war, one killed by Isil and the other by the regime. "Don't let that happen!"
Another "tool" in the US arsenal is economic pressure.
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