The White House on Monday night issued an ominous warning to Syria, accusing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of preparing a “potential” new chemical attack.
“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,” read the statement from press secretary Sean Spicer. “The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack.”
“As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price,” Spicer’s statement continued.
Specifics about the alleged preparations were not immediately clear, and Spicer did not elaborate beyond the statement. Some US intelligence agencies were reportedly caught off guard by the White House statement Monday night, according to The New York Times. The newspaper noted that it was not clear how closely held the intelligence about a possible attack might have been.
The Trump administration in April ordered missile strikes on an airfield in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 80 civilians. The April missile strikes targeted the Shayrat airfield and nearby military infrastructure controlled by Assad. The strikes yielded mixed results, only temporarily halting Syria’s aviation capabilities there.
Trump received some positive reactions from US lawmakers for his decision to take military action against Syria. Several countries — including Turkey, Israel, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, and Saudi Arabia — expressed support.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is a close ally of Assad, criticised the US, briefly ramping up tensions between Russia and the Trump administration. Russia sent additional warships to Syria as a result. Iran, another Syrian ally, called the strike “destructive and dangerous,” while the Syrian government said it was “foolish and irresponsible.”
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations said in response to the White House’s statement Monday night: “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.”
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