A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that United States intelligence had noticed suspect activity at the launch site of an apparent chemical strike by the regime two months ago.
Syria’s government has taken seriously the US warning against launching another chemical weapons attack, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – The US military has ships and aircraft in place to strike Syria if ordered to do so by President Donald Trump, but so far it does not appear as if the Syrian government has made any further moves toward a chemical weapons attack, several defense officials have told CNN.
“It appears they took the warning seriously”, Mattis told reporters traveling with him to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defense ministerial in Brussels.
“I am not aware of any information about a threat that chemical weapons can be used”, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call with reporters.
Syria and its allies, Russian Federation and Iran, have rejected the US allegation and say Assad’s forces never previously used chemical weapons.
The senior Iranian official noted that Iran and Russian Federation called for an global fact-finding mission in Syria after the USA raid, but Washington prevented the move because of its fears that the falsity of its claims would be revealed.
The coalition has been striking IS in Syria and Iraq since mid-2014 but has also been involved in recent confrontations with Assad s forces, raising fears of the United States being drawn into Syria s civil war.
The Pentagon on Tuesday said it detected “active preparations” by Syria for a chemical attack from the same air base where Syrian aircraft embarked on a sarin gas strike on April 4, killing nearly 90 people.
Russian Federation is Assad’s key backer and sided with him when he denied responsibility for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Idlib province on April 4.
United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley put a finer point on Monday’s warning, tweeting 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”.
Ankara was angered by a USA decision in June to arm the YPG in the battle for Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa.
Spicer said the activities were similar to preparations taken before the April attack, but he provided no evidence or further explanation.
The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning.
The U.S. cruise missile strike in April was the first intentional U.S. assault on Assad’s government or military.
Syria denied using chemical weapons.
The White House threat caught many in Trump’s administration by surprise.
The State Department officials weren’t authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.
But then U.S. president Barack Obama, who had also declared that a chemical attack would cross a “red line”, eventually decided against military action. But in April, more than 80 people were killed in a suspected chemical weapons attack in north-western Syria.