The US has said it believes Syria’s Assad regime is planning another chemical attack, warning that Damascus will “pay a heavy price” if it is carried out.
The White House said in a statement late Monday that preparations were similar to those before the regime’s April 4 nerve agent assault on Khan Sheikhoun in northwest Syria, killing at least 92 people and wounding almost 600. Three days later, US missiles struck a regime base for the first time in Syria’s 75-month conflict, hitting the complex from where the attack was launched.
The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.
If…Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.
White House officials did not detail the US plans or the intelligence behind the statement. US official said that, while the intelligence was not considered conclusive, the administration decided to issue a warning to deter any operations. He said several sites have been identified which are suspected of hiding newly-made chemical weapons from inspectors.
But “five US defense officials” said they did not know from where the potential chemical attack would come . They said they were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement, a break from the usual practice of coordinating across national security agencies and departments before any publication or announcement..
A Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment on the matter and referred questions to the White House statement. A State Department spokesperson also referred BuzzFeed News to the White House statement and said the agency did not have anything to add.
The Assad regime was supposed to hand over all chemical stocks and destroy all chemical weapons facilities after its August 2013 sarin attacks near Damascus that killed more than 1,400 people. However, it continued assaults with chlorine, which is not banned as a chemical substance from spring 2014 before returning to “sarin or a sarin-like substance” for the Khan Sheikhoun killings.
I have no information whatsoever about the chemical threat. I have no accurate information, and I think that my counterparts from intelligence services and the Defense Ministry will share their anxiety if such information emerges.