The US is poised to strike Syria in a major escalation of its intervention in the country.
But first there’s the sofa review article Here are five things you should know about US President Donald Trump’s Syria policy.
US intervention in Syria is unprecedented in history US President Trump is a military novice, but the United States is the only nation to have launched a military intervention in a sovereign nation-state since World War II.
The US has been accused of violating international law for more than a decade, including by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in 2013.
But Trump has not ruled out a military response, and he said on Monday that he would seek congressional approval before taking action.
It is unclear if the US is planning to go to war.
A Syrian government source told Al Jazeera that the US was preparing for an attack in response to the use of chemical weapons, and that its warplanes would launch cruise missiles against the Shayrat airbase in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, located some 1,000km (620 miles) from the Syrian capital Damascus.
“The US and the Russians have been working for more years on the joint air defence system (ADS) against the Syrian airforce, and the US will continue this work until we can take down Syria’s air force,” the source said.
The Pentagon said it would take “appropriate military action” against Syria if it believed it was violating international laws.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however, warned that the military intervention could cause a regional war.
“We’re not talking about an escalation.
We’re not even talking about a confrontation,” Tillerson told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday.
“What we are talking about is a major violation of international law, a serious violation of a sovereign country’s sovereignty, and we will take appropriate military action.”
Syria is an independent state, but it is part of the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
The US said the attack was designed to put pressure on Syria to end the civil war and put an end to its chemical weapons programme.
It also warned that “the use of force will only worsen” the Syrian civil war.
What is the US response?
The US military has been conducting strikes in Syria since late 2015, and it has conducted more than 10,000 air strikes since.
The United States has launched at least 30 cruise missiles at Syria since Trump took office in January, including a strike on the Shayat airbase that killed one Syrian military pilot.
The White House has also been conducting airstrikes on the country, targeting military facilities, command and control centres, and weapons storage sites.
The strikes have also been widely criticised, with the UN saying they are a violation of UN resolutions.
Trump has criticised the strikes as a “disaster” and “a crime”.
US air strikes in the Middle East Since September 2018, US military aircraft have dropped bombs on at least 23 targets in Syria, according to a Washington Post tally.
At least 1,100 people have died in those strikes, according the US Central Command.
More than 4,500 people have been wounded.
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for any chemical weapons attack.
Russia and Iran have backed the government in Syria with weapons.
Syria’s government has said the chemical weapons were fired from rebel-held areas in the northwest of the country into rebel-controlled areas in Syria’s northern province of Idlib.
“Syria has used chemical weapons against civilians,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday, according by Reuters.
The statement said that the use would “damage the credibility of international institutions and contribute to creating more instability and insecurity”.
The Syrian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, dismissed the UN and Western powers as “traitors” and accused them of “imperialism”.
“We will not let them use chemical weapons,” said Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem.
The UN said it was monitoring reports of chemical attack in Idlib, but had no confirmation of the use.
Al Jazeera’s David Schindler, reporting from the UN office in Geneva, said that it was clear the United Nations was not the only body that had a responsibility to investigate the use or storage of chemical weapon.
“These reports are just the tip of the iceberg, but we know that the Syrian government is using chemical weapons on civilians,” he said.
“There is a growing consensus in the international community that this is a crime against humanity.”
What does this mean for Syria’s neighbours?
There is an argument to be made that the United Kingdom, France and Germany are responsible for the chemical attack on Idlib.
In December 2017, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a parliamentary inquiry that he did not know of any evidence that the chemical was fired from Syria.
He also said it appeared to be a “planned provocation”.
Germany, the EU and the United Arab Emirates, which are also members of the coalition fighting ISIL, have all said they have evidence