U.S. Warns Assad Regime Preparing New Chemical Weapons Attacks

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad / Getty
May 21, 2019

The United States confirmed that it sees evidence that embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is gearing up to again use chemical weapons attacks against his citizens in a protracted and bitter war that has caused scores of casualties in the war torn country.

"We continue to see signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria on the morning of May 19, 2019," the State Department said in a statement. "We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately."

The Trump administration will not stand idly by while Assad uses these lethal weapons, the State Department said in its statement.

The United States continues to closely monitor the situation.

"The United States continues to closely watch the military operations by the Assad regime in northwest Syria, including indications of any new use of chemical weapons by the regime," the State Department said.

Assad has repeatedly used deadly chemical weapons—barred by conventional warfare—against his own citizens as he continues to hold onto power in Syria. Both Iran and Russia has sided with Assad and are likely aware of the regime's efforts to use chemical weapons and other attacks.

"The May 19 alleged attack in northwest Syria is part of a violent campaign by the Assad regime that violates a ceasefire that has protected several million civilians in the greater Idlib area," the State Department said. "This renewed Syrian regime offensive has targeted the communities of that area, which include a large number of Syrians who were already displaced from violence in others parts of Syria, and has destroyed known health facilities, schools, residences, and internally displaced person camps."

"The regime's attacks against the communities of northwest Syria must end. The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region," the statement says.

The administration also criticized efforts by Assad's Russian backers to disseminate disinformation regarding recent attacks.

"Russia's recent allegations against the White Helmets and others are part of a continuing disinformation campaign by the Assad regime and Russia to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting," the statement reads.

"Similarly, on November 24, 2018, the Assad regime and Russia attempted to fabricate a chemical weapons attack near Aleppo and blame it on opposition forces," it continued. "At times, Russia and the Assad regime have made these false allegations as a pretext in advance of the Assad regime's own barbaric chemical weapons attacks."

"The facts, however, are clear:  the Assad regime itself has conducted almost all verified chemical weapons attacks that have taken place in Syria—a conclusion the United Nations has reached over and over again," according to the State Department. " The former Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)-UN Joint Investigation Mechanism repeatedly verified and reported the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime's culpability in horrific chemical weapons attacks is undeniable."