With military options all but eliminated, the United States and Britain on Sunday said they were considering new sanctions to pressure the Syrian and Russian governments to halt an offensive against rebel-held parts of Aleppo, Syria’s largest city.
While the close allies said diplomacy was their primary focus, the tone was tougher than Saturday’s message from US Secretary of State John Kerry after he launched a new diplomatic effort to resolve the 5½-year civil war.
But the threats brandished Sunday — from harsher economic penalties to international prosecution for alleged perpetrators of war crimes — weren’t new.
“I haven’t seen a big appetite from governments in Europe to declare war,” he noted dryly after talks in London that included diplomats from France, Germany, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union. All oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad’s long-term control over his country and all are angry over a year-old Russian military intervention that has contributed to thousands of deaths and harrowing scenes of destruction in Aleppo.
Johnson called on the US and Europe to make Russia “feel the consequences” of their military campaign.
Kerry confirmed the US was studying additional sanctions, and he accused Russia of participating in “crimes against humanity on a daily basis.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the start of military operations to liberate the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants on Monday, launching the country on its toughest battle since American troops left nearly five years ago.
State TV aired a brief statement in the early hours Monday announcing the start of the widely anticipated military offensive to drive IS out of Iraq’s second-largest city.
Broadcasts showed the prime minister, dressed in the uniform of the elite counterterrorism forces, speaking while flanked by senior military officers.
“These forces that are liberating you today, they have one goal in Mosul which is to get rid of Daesh and to secure your dignity. They are there for your sake,” he told the city’s residents, using an alternate name for the militant group. “God willing, we shall win.”
The push to retake Mosul will be the biggest military operation in Iraq since American troops left in 2011 and, if successful, the strongest blow yet to the Islamic State. A statement on Al-Abadi’s website pledged the fight for the city marked a new phase that would lead to the liberation of all Iraqi territory from the militants this year.
Iraqi forces have been massing around the city in recent days. They include members of the elite special forces, who are expected to lead the charge into the city itself.