Washington D.C. (GPA) – US leaders are warning Syria that they will face retaliation for a chemical attack – an attack that hasn’t even happened.
Late Monday evening a series of confusing statements were issued by several officials from the Trump administration concerning Syria. The statements – which according to western media are “based on US intelligence” – warned Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that the US was prepared to retaliate for any attack using chemical weapons.
In the words of the US regime, the Syrian military appears to be making “potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack,” and warned that if this is true, Syria will “pay a heavy price.” As has become the norm concerning accusations against Syria, no evidence was provided except one line that read “the activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack.”
This is of course referring to the last accusation that the Syrian government used sarin gas in the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun. In that case, the US at least waited for this supposed attack to actually happen but then made a unilateral decision to strike a Syrian airbase with 59 cruise missiles and has yet to carry out any investigation of the actual site.
The April attack was denied by the governments of Syria and Russia, who issued calls for an neutral party investigation which were ignored. The story was questioned by many in the west as well, most notably by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, who released a report over the weekend allegedly debunking the US narrative.
The White House statement did acknowledge that the US “is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” but if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.” This of course comes on the heels of the US shooting down a Syrian jet in the country’s south and recent aggression by US ally Israel in the Golan Heights region.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley also condemned the hypothetical attack on Twitter. However, her statement contained an extra level of hypocrisy since Haley decided to also extend this warning to Syrian allies, Russia and Iran.
Haley’s tweet exclaimed that “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.” This is an outrageous statement when you consider the fact that Iran and Russia are conducting operations in Syria at the request of the legitimate government. As for the US and friends, all their operations inside Syria are a violation of international law.
Shortly after these accusations of future crimes were issued, they were addressed by both the Syrian and Russian governments.
Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation, Affairs Ali Haidar, not only dismissed the accusation of moving chemical stockpiles, but also reiterated years of previous assurances that “Damascus has never used and will never use such weapons.” Haidar also called the US warning another shot in the “diplomatic battle” being waged by the US and UN.
The Russian criticisms came from Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who told reporters that he is “not aware of any information or threat of using chemical weapons.” Peskov also speculated that if there were another chemical attack, it could be similar to past “cases of the use of toxic chemical agents by militants of Islamic state [IS, formerly ISIS/SIL] and other criminal groups have been established on multiple occasions.” Russian President Vladimir Putin has been warning of a false flag of this type, carried out by western allied militants, was a concern since the incident in Khan Sheikhoun.
The US warnings today are frightening when you consider that past accusations of Syrian chemical weapons always come a day after a major US statement; such as Obama’s ‘red line’ in 2013 and Trump’s change of position on toppling Assad on April 3rd. It’s unfathomable that the Syrian government – even if they had chemical weapons – would use them after a statement like this and any future accusations must be closely scrutinized by the global community.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.