US Speaks Out After Suspected Syria Chemical Attack

Officials suspect regime is 'evolving' new weapons
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2018 5:26 AM CST
French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, left, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, right, vote during a foreign ministers' meeting on the International Partnership Against Impunity for...   (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
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(Newser) – The Syrian regime not only kept some of its chemical weapons after a 2013 disarmament deal, it has apparently "evolved" new types of weapons and continues to use them on rebel-held civilian areas, Trump administration officials warn. The officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, tell Reuters that the administration hopes to deal with the Assad regime through sanctions and diplomatic pressure, but another military strike is also an option—especially since there's the risk of the Syrian weapons spreading to US shores. "We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons," one official says. The US hit a Syrian air base with dozens of cruise missiles last April after a chemical attack killed dozens of civilians.

"We're certainly seeing the evolution of allegations into new kinds of weapons that suggests an ongoing production capability" of sarin and chlorine gas, one official tells the Washington Post. "They clearly think they can get away with this if they keep it under a certain level." Al Jazeera reports that a State Department spokeswoman issued a warning after a suspected chemical attack on civilians Thursday in Eastern Ghouta, a besieged rebel-held area near Damascus. The reported use of chlorine gas is "very concerning," she tweeted. Russia "is making the wrong choice by not exercising its unique influence," she added. "To allow #Syria regime to use chemical weapons against its own people is unconscionable. We will pursue accountability." (The "capital of the revolution" is now largely abandoned.)

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