White House Says Relevant US Agencies Involved in Syria Chemical Weapons Claim

Gladys Abbott
June 27, 2017

A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and allied forces have faced recent setbacks.

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

"We are, of course, not in the agreement with the phrase 'regular attack, ' because, as you know, despite the demands of the Russian side, there was no impartial worldwide investigation into the previous tragedy that involved chemical agents; thus we do not consider it possible to lay the responsibility on the Syrian armed forces".

Three days later, the United States launched a military strike in response to the chemical weapons attack.

In a statement released late Monday evening, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the USA had found "potential" evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was preparing to conduct an attack similar to the one carried out on April 4 that killed dozens of civilians, including children.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable".

Moscow, which backs Assad militarily, has consistently rejected accusations that Damascus was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria in April.

The Trump administration threatened Tuesday that Syria will pay "a heavy price" if it follows through on what the US says are preparations for another chemical weapons attack - warning of action that could plunge America deeper into a civil war alongside the fight against Islamic State militants.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer revealed the news in a statement late Monday.

She stressed that the primary USA goal in Syria is to fight Islamic State, not to remove Assad. Syria denied the charge.

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As for the White House statement itself, Peskov noted that the Kremlin had heard of it.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, followed up Spicer's statement with a Twitter warning: "Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people".

The strong wording of the statement drew reaction from Russian Federation, a key ally and military partner of Assad's government in Syria.

Nikki Haley, the USA ambassador to the United Nations, warned in a Twitter post on Monday that "any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people".

USA and allied intelligence officers had for some time identified several sites where they suspected Assad's government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, said a US official familiar with the intelligence.

She told a House of Representatives hearing that the administration intended its warning not just to Syria's government but also to Russian Federation and Iran.

French President Emmanuel Macron agreed with Trump in a phone call on Tuesday to work together to find a common response in case of a new chemical attack in Syria, the French presidency said.

Although the intelligence was not considered conclusive, Washington chose to issue the public warning to the Syrian leadership to try to deter such a strike, said the official, who declined to discuss the issue further.

Syrian rebels say they do not rule out the possibility of another chemical weapons attack by President Bashar Assad's government - even after punitive USA missile strikes after the attack in April.

Other reports by LeisureTravelAid

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