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US warns Syria of ‘swift and appropriate’ response if chemical weapons used

U.S. President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
September 04, 2018

The United States issued a severe warning to Syria on Tuesday, saying it and its allies will respond “swiftly and appropriately” if Bashar al-Assad were to use chemical weapons to attack people in Syria, the White House said.

Tensions have recently heightened in the country, as the impending threat of an attack has risen while Syrian government troops gather.

Both the U.S. and France have recently issued warnings to Assad, as well as his Russian and Iranian allies, about using chemical weapons in Idlib, one of the last provinces in Syria where thousands of rebel fighters are holding out.

The BBC on Tuesday reported that planes allegedly from Russia had bombed rebel-held areas in Idlib, but Russia denied the airstrike claims; the claims remained unconfirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement Tuesday saying:

The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran. President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately. The United States will continue to work tirelessly with its Allies to find a lasting diplomatic solution to resolve the hostilities in Syria under the auspices of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

President Donald Trump on Monday had tweeted, “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!”

National Security Advisor John Bolton said Aug. 23 that the U.S. would respond “forcefully” to chemical weapons attacks, Bloomberg had reported.

However, the Kremlin on Tuesday also spoke out after Trump’s tweet and statement.

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Just to speak out with some warnings, without taking into account the very dangerous, negative potential for the whole situation in Syria, is probably not a full, comprehensive approach,” Radio Free Europe reported.

“The Idlib situation continues to make us feel strongly concerned in Moscow, Damascus, Ankara, and Tehran,” Peskov said. “This is another hotbed of terrorism. […] There is no doubt that the issue should be dealt with. We know that Syrian government forces are preparing to solve this problem.”

The unrest in Syria stems from its civil war, since 2011, which Assad fights with the country’s allies against the United States and various opposing forces, including rebel groups, which are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS).

Russia and Iran support Asaad, who is seen as having the advantage in the conflict.

Assad denies using chemical weapons or that an April 2017 toxic gas attack took place, and Russia has said the gas was released when Syria attacked a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory, according to an Associated Press report.

President Trump ordered for a missile strike on the Syrian base in April of last year following the gas attack, which was seen as his first major military move as President.

Trump this past April again ordered airstrikes on Syria, with the U.K. and France.

The strikes, which contained nearly double the amount of missiles as the 2017 Syrian strike, were in response to Assad allegedly gassing entire families to death the previous weekend in Douma and East Ghouta.

Groups in the area, which put Assad’s chemical gas attack death toll at more than 70 people, said many residents had been hiding in cellars, suffocating from poison gas. There were also posts across social media of children suffering and dying from the gas.

The White House in June 2017 had warned of a “heavy price” were Assad to launch another toxic gas attack such as the deadly incident from that April, when the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun was struck by a government airstrike that released a toxic agent, possibly sarin gas, which reportedly killed at least 74 people and injured more than 557 others.

This was reportedly the deadliest chemical weapons attack in the country since 2013.