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Escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad's allies including Russia and Iran.

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al-Assad on Sunday said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed “red lines” and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally. The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the U.S. role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad’s allies including Russia and Iran.

Russia warns of serious consequences from U.S. strike in Syria

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Russia warned on Friday that U.S. cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have “extremely serious” consequences, as President Donald Trump’s first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington. The warships USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles that hit the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations of Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack this week. It was Trump’s biggest foreign policy decision since taking office in January and the kind of direct intervention in Syria’s six-year-old civil war his predecessor Barack Obama avoided. The strikes were in reaction to what Washington says was a poison gas attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 70 people in rebel-held territory.

Iran and Hezbollah threaten to open a second front alongside Lebanon against Israel in case of a future war in Syria

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We have a lot of contradictory reports, most of them unconfirmed and unofficial, regarding Israeli-Russian understandings over the war in Syria. After the launch aircraft missiles Israelo ambassador was summoned immediately. Media reports suggested that President Vladimir Putin, who is the sponsor and savior of the Syrian regime, expressed anger, while Syria’s ruler, Bashar Assad, boasted to Russian lawmakers that Putin had promised to rein in Israel. Israeli commentators wrote that the operational freedom hitherto enjoyed by the Israel Air Force is over. Since Moscow deployed its forces in Syria 18 months ago, Israel added another factor to the equation; it reached understandings with Russia in order to know each other’s interests and avoid mistakes and even dog fights between their two air forces. These understandings are formulated in the creation of direct lines of communication between the intelligence and air forces of the two countries, and are known as a “deconflicting mechanism”. So Putin on one hand understands the Israeli concerns and interests, but on another hand he  has no choice but to publicly denounce it. The recent success of the Assad regime and expected defeat of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria make this scenario more and more possible. Iran and Hezbollah hope to be positioned on the border and thus threaten to open a second front alongside Lebanon against Israel in case of a future war.Israel is committed to stop this, either by reaching another understanding with Putin, and through him influencing Assad, Iran and Hezbollah in that direction, or, as a last resort, by force.

Le Pen in Lebanon: Assad was the most reassuring solution for France

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France’s far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen refused Tuesday to go into a meeting with Lebanon’s grand mufti on Tuesday after his aides asked her to wear a headscarf. Le Pen, who is on a three-day visit to Lebanon this week and has met senior officials, was scheduled to meet with Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, Lebanon’s top Sunni Muslim religious authority. Shortly after she arrived at his office Tuesday morning, one of his aides handed her out a white headscarf to put on. Following a discussion that lasted a few minutes, she refused and walked toward her car and left. Le Pen has tried to raise her international profile and press her pro-Christian stance with her visit to Lebanon, a former French protectorate. On Monday, she met with President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, declaring that Syrian President Bashar Assad was “the most reassuring solution for France”. On Tuesday, after walking away from the meeting with Derian, she said that before it, she had told the cleric’s office that she was not planning to don a veil during the encounter and was not told not to come. “They didn’t cancel the meeting so I thought they would accept the fact that I wouldn’t wear one”, she said. “They tried to impose it upon me, make it a matter of fact. You can’t put me before a matter of fact”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: “Syria is ready for opposition”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he is willing to take part in direct talks with representatives of all oppositon groups, Russian news agency Tass reported MP Dmitry Sablin, coordinator of the Duma’s friendship group with the Parliament of Syria, as saying Wednesday. “(Assad) has said Syria is ready for direct talks with opposition representatives, including the armed opposition,” Sablin said following a meeting with the Syrian president. “Assad supports the Astana peace talks,” he added. In the meantime, Syria’s government rejected recent claims by Amnesty International of alleged human rights violations at Saydnaya prison near Damascus, saying the reports are groundless. In a statement to government news agency Sana the justice ministry said that “the news circulating in the media” based on a report released by the international human rights watchdog on Tuesday “is totally unfounded” and “intended to ruin Syria’s international reputation”.

Assad also said US-Russian cooperation in stepping up the fight against ISIL

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed a US-led coalition against ISIL in Syria as “illusive,” saying the terrorist group “was expanding” during the operation.Speaking to a group of Belgian reporters, Assad has also cast doubt at new US President Donald Trump’s pledge to fight ISIL terrorists, SANA reported. Assad also said US-Russian cooperation in stepping up the fight against ISIL, as suggested by Trump, would have positive repercussions but it was too early to expect any practical steps. Assad said the European Union should have no role in the reconstruction of Syria unless it changes its policy toward the country. EU countries, he said, back militants who inflicted destruction on Syria.  He also accused UN institutions of acting unfairly towards his country, saying “they are biased because of the American influence and the French and British, mainly.” He made the remarks in response to a December decision by the UN General Assembly to gather evidence on war crimes in Syria towards prosecuting those responsible for atrocities there.”For me, as president, when I do my duty, the same for the government and for the army, to defend our country, we don’t look to this issue, we don’t care about it,” he added.

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