US Warns Syria Preparing Another Chemical Attack, Threatens Retaliation

Wednesday, 28 Jun, 2017

Less than three months after the United States launched 49 cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in early April, allegedly in retaliation for a chemical attack conducted by Assad forces, in an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, on Monday night the White House warned that the usa has "identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime" in Syria and warned that Assad would "pay a heavy price" if one took place.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Tuesday that Washington would continue to provide weapons after the Raqqa battle is over.

British Defence Minister Michael Fallon said London would support USA action to prevent a chemical weapons attack but that it had not seen the intelligence on which Washington based Monday's statement.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said that the USA had observed preparations for possible new chemical weapons attacks being made at Shayrat airbase, a facility that was the target of a United States missile strike in April.

Ali Haidar, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs in Syria, slammed the claim, saying that Damascus "has never used and will never use such weapons".

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the threat from the USA "unacceptable".

"As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria", Spicer declared.

Syria's two main allies, Russian Federation and Iran, joined in bashing Washington. And Syrian allies Russian Federation and Iran are accusing the United States of escalating tensions.

Regional analyst Anthony Billingsley of the University of New South Wales told VOA he fears that with the recent shooting down of a Syrian jet and a Russian threat to treat planes from a USA -led coalition as hostile, another retaliatory strike could be "a much more serious danger". The U.S. and its allies blame Syria for the attack. Mattis said as he traveled to Europe for meetings with defense ministers at North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

Iran is Assad's key regional backer in his fight against his opponents since the Syrian crisis began in 2011. You have to assume there are either Iranian officered or Lebanese Hezbollah elements with them. But the USA priority has and continues to be to defeat ISIS.

The French foreign ministry refused to say Tuesday whether it too had information about possible preparations by the Syrian regime for a chemical attack.

"We're now starting to add to the sort of militarization of this particular tension between governments, and that's very worrying because these things can suddenly lose control and get out of hand", Billingsley said.

The Pentagon says it had detected "active preparations" by Syria for a chemical attack. The Trump administration launched missile strikes in retaliation for that attack, which it blamed on Assad.

Russia, as well as its fellow ally Iran, have repeatedly stood by Assad's government and denied it has used chemical weapons to subdue rebels.

There are about 900 US servicemembers in Syria advising, training and providing fire support for an estimated 50,000 Syrian forces that the United States now supports.

The missile strikes were the first time the USA purposefully targeted Assad's forces in the conflict's six-year history.

ISIS is an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group.

The U.S. strike in April was the first direct American assault on the Syrian government and Trump's most dramatic military order since becoming president.

Iran, which saw its capital Tehran hit by the Islamic State militant group earlier this month, said the U.S.'s actions would only further embolden ISIS.

The no combat zones will not result in a partitioned Syria, Mattis asserted. "If they do capture this territory, are they going to stay there indefinitely to act as an SDF air force?" he said. "It'll be based on where does the river bend here, which side of the river is the town on there".