Even as the US, UK and France mull over a military response to the alleged chemical attack carried out by the Syrian regime, the United States President Donald Trump sent out a clear warning to Russian Federation, saying "missiles will be coming".
On Tuesday, Russia's ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin told Hezbollah's TV station Al Manar that if there was an American strike on Syria, they would be shot down and the launch sites would be targeted.
But since that agreement, multiple chemical weapons attacks have taken place in Syria, including one previous year that prompted President Trump to hit targets in that country with a volley of missiles. "Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'", Trump said in a tweet.
Trump, who has often said a commander in chief should never telegraph his military intentions, apparently did so himself, tweeting that missiles "will be coming" in response to the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people near Damascus. Still, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Service Committee, said Trump's "premature" declaration emboldened Assad.
A pair of Navy warships in the eastern Mediterranean Sea were capable of launching the same sort of missile barrage Trump ordered against a Syrian air base a year ago in response to a chemical attack then that killed more than 80 civilians.
General Sir Richard Barrons, Commander Joint Forces Command from April 2013 until April 2016, speaking to the BBC Today programme, said: "I hope the Russian ambassador's chosen his words very carefully".
After the attack, the rebel group holed up in Douma - Jaish al-Islam - finally agreed to withdraw from the town. That sealed a major victory for Assad in the war, crushing a protracted rebellion in the eastern Ghouta region near the capital Damascus.
In another, he painted a dark picture of US-Russia relations but said it did not have to be that way.
But the Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron have left no doubt over who they believe is culpable, and over their plans to respond with force.
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What might a military strike look like?
Washington has also been in discussion with France and the United Kingdom, raising the prospect of co-ordinated Western military action.
Mattis also ignored a question about whether he was concerned about telegraphing United States military moves in Syria, a question appearing to refer to Trump's earlier tweet on Wednesday.
"Syria's civil war continues to be a complex regional conflict, and it has become increasingly clear that USA military interventions will likely add to the mass suffering in Syria", Reps.
Trump had said Monday a response to the Syria attack would come within days.
US President Donald Trump cancelled a scheduled trip to Latin America in order to manage the ensuing crisis, and is reportedly involved in extensive consultations with officials in the United Kingdom and France about launching a military strike as early as at the end of this week. Despite the advance notice, Russian Federation made no effort to shoot down the American missiles.
The Eurocontrol airspace organization said that the European Aviation Safety Agency had sent a "Rapid Alert Notification" that flight operations needed to consider the possibility of air or missile strikes into Syria. Russian Federation is Assad's most powerful ally and its devastating air power has helped him wrest back large areas of territory from rebels since 2015.
"It's not at all unusual that it (the United States) supports the terrorists in Ghouta and condones their fabrications and lies to use them as a pretext to target Syria", the official source said. Virtually all USA missiles now have advanced guidance systems.