Syria summit in Iran may decide Idlib military offensive

Syrian government forces attack rebel-held city

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Russian airstrikes on Idlib killed at least nine civilians Tuesday.

CNN earlier reported that US military and intelligence experts have prepared a preliminary list of targets for the US airstrike, if US President Donald Trump orders it.

Jeffrey repeated a sharp warning to Russian Federation, saying any offensive in the northwestern province of Idlib is "objectionable" and would be seen as a "reckless escalation".

Jeffrey and retired U.S. Army Col. Joel Rayburn, who transferred to the State Department from the National Security Council last month to become "special envoy for Syria", were brought in to try to create a coherent blueprint that would prevent a repeat of what the administration sees as the mistakes of Iraq - where a precipitous U.S. pullout left the field open for Iran, and for a resurgence of Sunni militants that gave birth to the Islamic State.

The attacks were carried out after the US government urged the Syrian government, which is assisted by Russian Federation and Iran in its civil war, not to attack the rebel stronghold where approximately 3 million people live.

The United Nations has warned that an all-out offensive on the province, where as many as three million people are trapped, could lead to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

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"If it's a slaughter, the world is going to get very, very angry".

Ahead of his visit to Tehran, Erdogan said Turkey aims to find a "permanent solution" to the conflict in its southern neighbor through the discussions.

On Tuesday, the White House released an official statement condemning the attacks on Idlib and threatened military force if "chemical weapons" are used. An estimated 10,000 hard-core fighters, including al-Qaeda-linked militants, are said to be hiding among 3 million civilians. Instead, the United States has called for a cooperative approach with other outside actors.

Jeffrey said an attack by Russian and Syrian forces, and the use of chemical weapons, would force huge refugee flows into southeastern Turkey or areas in Syria under Turkish control.

The announcement "means we're not in a hurry to pull out", the U.S. special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, told journalists in Washington Thursday, although he added that didn't necessarily mean a long-term American military presence in the country.

"We have made very clear that by putting out innuendo that somehow any chemical weapon use coming up in the future could be ascribed to the opposition, well, we want to see the data", Mattis said.

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