U.S. Challenges Syria For Chemical Weapons Used
It seems as though Syria had forgotten how bad the “Mother Bomb” was when President Trump released it on them in 2017. The reports came back and confirmed from U.S. intelligence Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime used chlorine on his own people again as a chemical weapon on May 19. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sent the message the Trump administration will “not let it go unchallenged.”
Pompeo told reporters Friday that May 19 was the latest atrocity from Syria where Assad’s regime is responsible for the eight and a half year war which includes “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Just a few days after the U.N. told the world the Syrian regime and Assad finally agreed to negotiate an end to their war, the U.S. is rallying Middle Eastern and Western allies to put more pressure on Assad.
The U.S. is withholding funds for reconstruction until Russia and Syria agree to work out a political process. James Jeffrey, a U.S. special envoy for Syria, is calling this campaign a success as a constitutional committee will begin in a few weeks. Jefferey added, “it is a glimmer of hope that this conflict can be ended the right way.”
Pompeo gave little details on the chlorine attack but said the U.S. will address it. He explained, “It was conducted in Latakia province and was part of Assad’s larger assault on Idlib province, the last rebel-controlled stronghold. Since April, regime forces boosted by Russian airstrikes have moved into Idlib despite a ceasefire with Turkey, which backs the rebels.”
The U.N. also announced over 1,000 people were killed in the offense. The U.N. is concerned for the three million-plus civilians who fled to Idlib from Assad’s regime. Europe is also worried because of the number of people pouring in as refugees. For President Trump, it has been a more “wait and see” basis on what Syria does. He warned Russia and Syria about attacking Idlib but has not done anything to stop it at the moment.
According to spokesperson Morgan Ortagus, the State Department saw “signs of a possible chlorine attack but was still gathering information.” Friday it was confirmed, and Pompeo would not reveal the source. He stated, “The United States will not allow these attacks to go unchallenged, nor will we tolerate those who choose to conceal these atrocities.”
Airstrikes put pressure on Syria twice so far in 2017 and 2018 when Assad released sarin gas on his own people. Both Russia and Assad’s regime denied using any chemical weapons, but the evidence is indisputable. The U.N.’s Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed Syria did use chemical weapons when the U.S. conducted the airstrikes.
Pompeo gave the impression U.S. military action will probably not be necessary since it was not sarin gas used this time, but it was chlorine. He stated, “This is different in some sense in that it was chlorine, so it’s a bit of a different situation.” He added the comment the U.S. will fund $4.5 million to the OPCW. Jeffrey also commented, “We’re not going to tie ourselves down to any military or political, diplomatic action. Four people were wounded. It was four months.”
The U.S. Officials are claiming new sanctions will be added from the Treasury Department. The reason is due to the smuggling of jet fuel from Syria to Russia to conduct the bombing attacks on civilians. A statement from the Treasury Department stated, “The fuel has enabled Assad’s continued bombing campaigns that destroyed numerous hospitals, schools, and public spaces, resulting in civilian deaths.”
Pompeo continued to accuse Assad on the “war crimes and the crimes against humanity,” but the U.S. gave up on saying Assad “must go.” Now the U.S. sees if another election is held fairly, he will be voted out of office. The U.S. is hoping for a peaceful transition before attacking again.
Pompeo also addressed the 100,000 plus prisoners held in Assad’s prisons. Among those are “a number of American citizens.” He stated, “We call upon the Syrian regime to release them all.” Pompeo included Austin Tice, an American journalist, who has been prisoned for seven years.
With elections close by for Syria, it would be a tough call to attack. Sometimes the best thing to do is wait out a situation and see what Syria and Russia have to offer to end the war on their side of the fence. We will see how this plays out, but at least they are willing.