Well, if you needed any further evidence that the honeymoon between the Kremlin and Donald Trump was over, look no further because now, the Pentagon is probing whether Russia was complicit in the chemical attack in Idlib.
According to “a senior US defense official”, the US is investigating whether a Russian warplane deliberately bombed a hospital in Khan Sheikhoun where victims were being treated in an effort to “destroy evidence.”
“A US defense official says intelligence shows a Russian drone flew over the hospital in Idlib that was treating victims of the chemical attack, prior to the site being later bombed by an unknown aircraft,” CNN reports, adding that “the Russians operate drones in the area routinely so the Pentagon cannot be certain the drone operator even knew what was happening, but the drone was a Russian asset.”
As a reminder, Moscow initially said no chemical attack had actually occurred, claiming instead that Assad’s forces had hit a chemical weapons factory operated by the resistance.
It’s probably a safe bet, at this juncture, that whatever goodwill remained in Moscow towards Russia’s chosen US President has now evaporated.
Additionally, this sets up a rather dramatic showdown on the UN Security Council where US ambassador Nikki Haley warned on Friday that Washington is “prepared to do more in Syria.”
Remember what we said earlier about the ridiculous claim that Bashar al-Assad wouldn’t launch a chemical attack because he fears a rebuke from the international community? Here’s a reminder:
Even if you’re inclined to think that Assad is thinking two or three steps ahead, one plausible answer to the question “why would he risk it?” is this: because he’s backed by Moscow and Tehran and so far, nobody has been real keen on crossing the Kremlin aside from Erodgan which isn’t surprising because he’s out of his mind.
Well, here’s what Haley said today:
The joint investigative mechanism has found beyond any doubt that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against its own people multiple times. Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he knew Russia had his back. That changed last night.
In September, 2015, Russia essentially dared the US to take overt military action in Syria when Moscow stepped into the fight on the side of its ally in Damascus.
Now, it would appear, the tables have turned. It’s Washington doing the daring. We shall soon see whether Putin lives up to his reputation or whether when push comes to shove with the (still) unipolar world’s only superpower, he’s all bark and no bite.
Meanwhile, all of this is playing out against the backdrop of an ongoing investigation into the Trump administration’s ties to Moscow. Which certainly seems to suggest that Trump’s cavalier attitude towards Syria is at least partially an attempt to deflect.
Because what better way to “prove” you’re not a Russian pawn than to pick a fight with the Kremlin…