This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.
The United States says it suspects that Syrian government forces have carried out a new chemical attack.
The State Department said in a statement on May 21 that it was investigating a suspected chlorine attack on May 19 in Idlib Province, the Syrian opposition’s last major stronghold.
State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said in a statement that if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government “uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately.”
Ortagus also criticized Russia, a key ally of Damascus, for what she called a “disinformation campaign” to blame opposition rebels for chemical attacks.
US threatens response if alleged chemical attack by Syrian government is proven https://t.co/T5sc17HKlB
— The Independent (@Independent) May 22, 2019
Viktor Kupchishin, the head of the Russian military’s Reconciliation Center in Syria, said earlier on May 21 that militants captured by Syrian troops spoke of a plan to stage fake chemical attacks and blame them on government forces.
He claimed the militants had created a special “chemical wing” to produce and stockpile toxic agents.
Russia and Turkey, the key ally of the rebels, agreed in September to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Idlib.
But Tahrir al-Sham, a merger of Islamist groups dominated by the former Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate until 2016, has seized large areas of the province and prompted air and ground offensives.
Ankara fears that a large-scale assault on Idlib, which lies on its southern border, could trigger a massive flow of refugees onto its soil.