The U.S. State Department issued a warning to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, saying Washington and its allies would respond swiftly and “appropriately” if recent allegations of Assad’s chemical weapon use were proven true.
Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said the U.S. has been paying close attention to the military operations of Assad’s forces in northwest Syria. There were continuing signs, she said, that “the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons,” including an alleged May 19 chlorine attack in Idlib.
The New York Times reported this week that Assad’s government, with the support of his allies Russia and Iran, had begun a campaign to recapture Idlib, the last opposition-held province in the country. It promises to be a “long, slow and violent” battle, the paper said.
Ortagus said the U.S. was “still gathering information” on the alleged chlorine attack, “but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately.”
The U.S. State Department is warning that there are signs Syria's government is again using chemical weapons. pic.twitter.com/D55lY1VhnJ— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) May 21, 2019
Russia’s Ministry of Defense accused Syrian rebels of plotting a “false flag” chemical weapons attack to frame Assad’s regime, CNN reported.
But Ortagus said the Russian allegation was “part of a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting.”
“The facts … are clear: the Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria — a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again,” Ortagus said.
It’s unclear what steps the Trump administration would take against the Assad regime if their alleged use of chemical weapons is confirmed. The administration has previously ordered limited strikes against the Syrian regime following earlier reports of their chemical weapon use.
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