Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Assad may be preparing a chemical attack, says US

Assad may be preparing a chemical attack, says US

Earlier this week, a statement by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the United States had "identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack" by the Syrian government, noting that it would "pay a heavy price" if such an assault took place.

USA officials said on Tuesday Washington's warning to Syria's leadership against staging a chemical weapons attack was based on intelligence about what appeared to be active preparations at a Syrian airfield used for such an attack in April.

The U.S. attacked the Syrian government Shayrat airbase with hellfire missiles on April 6 in retaliation for the alleged sarin gas attack, which killed some 87 people, including children.

A senior USA official told VOA the White House statement was prompted not only by fears a strike would lead to mass civilian casualties, but that a chemical attack might also be used to target rebel allies of the eastern Syria.

The White House claims were dismissed by President Bashar al Assad and Russian Federation, which has long supported the Syrian government.

The White House released a statement on Monday night alleging that the US government had witnessed preparations for a chemical weapons attack and threatened retaliation if the Syrian government went through with the alleged plot. "And I watched past administrations say, we will attack at such and such a day at such and such an hour".

The Pentagon chief insists the United States is not taking sides in the Syrian conflict, saying late Monday that U.S. forces would not fire on targets "unless they are the enemy unless they are ISIS".

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday the activity at the Shayrat air base indicates "active preparations for chemical weapons use".

The White House's declaration on Syria comes as the administration grapples with a beleaguered agenda, including the possible collapse of their health care reform and the continuing pall of a special counsel's investigation into Russia's involvement in 2016 election meddling.

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"Certainly, we consider such threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable".

"If this happens again, we are putting you on notice".

Yesterday the White House warned President Bashar al-Assad that if he goes through with it, quote, "he and his military will pay a heavy price".

The US and Russian Federation instead struck a deal on the destruction of Syria's nuclear weapons stockpile.

Gorka said he did not take the remarks as a threat from Moscow, and downplayed concerns that the issue could put the United States on a collision course with Russian Federation.

Coalition forces on the ground have accused pro-regime fighters of targeting them in recent weeks, as they shot down two Iran-made attack drones and a Syrian fighter jet.

"The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russian Federation and Iran a message", she said on Tuesday.

Trump had dinner with Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.

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