Syria news latest: Russia 'could launch cyber warfare within weeks' after US-led military action, expert warns

Russia could “launch cyber warfare within weeks” in retaliation to US-led airstrikes on Syria bringing down City firms, the UK transport network and the NHS, experts have warned.

Theresa May hailed “targeted and limited” action on key sites of Syria’s chemical weapons regime “a success” while Donald Trump branded the offensive “perfectly executed”.

But Russia warned of “consequences” following the strike which has left the Prime Minister facing questions over why the decision was not put to a parliamentary vote.

Now experts have said the action in retaliation to a suspected chemical attack in Douma a week ago could lead to “cyber warfare”.

British academic Michael Clarke who specialises in defence told the Sunday Mirror an attack could be imminent in the next two or three weeks.

“I suspect Russia will choose not to respond in military terms. But cyber warfare is highly likely,” he says.

“It will be an attack on national infrastructure, not just upsetting city firms, but getting inside the transport system, or the health system, or air traffic control. It could affect everyone.”

Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford agreed that the strikes would spark retaliation and said Britain was most vulnerable to a counter-attack.

Despite admitting that the “immediate risk of a wider war” has been avoided for now, he warned that sources of potential conflict are still very much active on the ground in Syria.

He wrote in the Sunday Telegraph: “Bad relations could easily encourage a reckless Russian freebooter, prompted and paid by Iran, to try his luck getting revenge on the pockets of US and British forces operating in eastern Syria.

Theresa May’s speech on Syria strikes in 60 seconds

“Britain is more exposed to potential revenge attacks, despite only four Tornados taking part in the strikes, because they flew from Akrotiri in Cyprus – so close to Syria and to Lebanon.”

Military chiefs backed the action but disputed claims Russia and Syria would strike back.

Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army said it was “wholly right” that Syria was subject to sanctions from the UK, US and France following the “appalling” use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.

Inaction, he said, would have made the West look weak.

Damage to a research lab near Damascus (AP)

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the retired Army officer, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009, said: “The Prime Minister…deserves our congratulations for having the moral courage to do the right thing at the right time.

“Always seeking approval from Parliament is a recipe for inaction.”

Missiles light up the sky over Damascus (AP)

The next step, he added, is for Britain to play its part in getting all parties to meet “around the conference table” in Geneva, and put a stop to the Syrian civil war.

Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy added that some form of military action “had to be taken” over the situation in Syria.

While the attack was a “pinprick”, the next one could be a “great big hammer”, he added, saying Bashar Assad would be “stupid” to consider deploying chemical weapons again.

“Theresa May was right not to go to Parliament,” he wrote, in a column for the Sunday Mirror. 

“If she had evidence of a chemical attack that would have added extra complication.”

He added that he believes Russia will not fire missiles – “that would be an act of war” – and that Vladimir Putin will be happy to “allow this to fade away”.

Additional reporting by Press Association.

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