President Trump issued a statement recently warning that he is “going to get very, very angry” if the upcoming Syrian offensive against al-Qaeda in Idlib Province ends up “slaughters civilians.” He threatened to respond “swiftly and appropriately.”
This is an expansion of previous comments and threats from the administration about the Idlib offensive, in which Syria hopes to reclaim the last rebel-held territory in the country. Previously, US officials had threatened to attack if chemical weapons were used.
Trump’s threat to respond now appears to no longer be conditional on any chemical use, and comes after other administration officials have declared that they are opposed to any offensive against the rebels at all, and will view them all as an “escalation” of the war.
Syrian and Russian forces have shelling and launched airstrikes against Idlib in recent days, but there is as yet no public timetable for the ground offensive. It is not uncommon for Syria to try to soften up rebel territories with shelling while trying to negotiate a surrender before resorting to a ground invasion.