Syria rejects U.S. chemical attack allegations

Carla Harmon
June 27, 2017

The White House on Monday night issued a warning to Syria and its leader, Bashar al-Assad, not to launch a new chemical weapons attack against its own civilian population. Haley said Syria is "very, very concerning", but said "a political solution has to happen". Damascus also denied the information. The United States regularly flies both manned and unmanned aircraft over Syria and also has some satellites capable of recording images of the battlefield.

The officials said they were unaware the White House was planning to release its statement; usually such statements are coordinated across the national security agencies and departments before they are released.

Marine Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Pentagon spokesman, said Tuesday that the undisclosed activity was centered at least in part on one aircraft hangar at the central Shayrat air base that Tomahawk missiles hit in a barrage of strikes on April 7 that marked the first USA military intervention against Assad's forces during six years of war.

Buzzfeed reports that five USA defense officials were not aware of a pending chemical attack - or that the White House was planning a statement.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement that the US has identified activities "similar to the preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack", which prompted the fire a few dozen Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase in retaliation.

Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister for national reconciliation, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the USA had made the accusation in order to pave the way for a "diplomatic battle" against Syria at the United Nations.

Peskov criticized the Trump administration for using the phrase "another chemical weapons attack", arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia's calls for one.

The latest attack occurred on June 18, when an American fighter jet shot down a Syrian government warplane that had attacked rebels supported by the U.S.

"The goal is at this point not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russian Federation and Iran a message", Haley told a House panel. Obama instead opted for a Russian-brokered deal with the Assad regime in which Assad would give up his chemical weapons arsenal. The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

The White House said the preparations were similar to those undertaken by the Assad regime ahead of an apparent chemical attack on a rebel-held town. He said the Syrian government does not have chemical weapons.

After the April attack, Trump gave orders to fire dozens of Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat in central Syria.

State Department officials who would normally be involved in a big announcement such as Monday's warning to Syria said they were caught by surprise, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Speaking to reporters on a military plane late on Monday as he headed for meetings in Europe, Mr. Mattis said the USA -led coalition was determined to keep a strict focus on fighting the Islamic State group.

Other reports by iNewsToday