In the wake of new reporting suggesting that the Trump administration’s decision to target the Syrian government with cruise missiles in early April was conducted without sufficient evidence and over the objections of some in the U.S. intelligence community, the White House on Monday night threatened President Bashar al-Assad’s government with further military action.
In a message that, according to the New York Times, “appeared designed to set the stage for another possible military strike,” the White House statement made a claim (though it offered no evidence to support it) that the Syrian military appeared to be planning a chemical attack similar to one that took place in the village of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4. If “another” such attack took place, said the tweeted statement, there would be a “heavy price” for Assad to pay.
“Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘’We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”
While the White House has yet to present verifiable evidence proving Syria intentionally targeted its own civilian population with chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun, the Assad government—though it acknowledges carrying out airstrikes in the town that day—continues to deny it was behind the horrific deaths. The Russian government, an ally of Assad and fighting on its behalf against rebel factions and the Islamic State, has said that a conventional weapon dropped by a Syrian warplane may have hit depots of chemical agents, chlorine, or fertilizers which resulted in the toxic gas that killed an estimated 60 people, including many children.
According the numerous outlets, Monday night’s statement from the White House caught much of the U.S. intelligence community off guard. As the Independent reports, sources from within the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and Central Command said that “they did not know what had prompted the unprecedented threat to the Assad regime.”
Click Here: NRL Telstra Premiership
In his response, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Tuesday morning said that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.” Meanwhile, the Syrian government dismissed the allegations as false.
During a congressional hearing on Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Trump’s warning—aimed not just at Syria, but also at Russia and Iran—should be taken as, “If this happens again, we are pointing you on notice.”
But in the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, Head of the Federation Council’s International Affairs Committee, pushed back by saying the White House claims of a pending chemical attack by Syria smelled more like an orchestrated ruse for a preemptive strike by the U.S. rather than a serious attempt to prevent such an attack.
It could be, said Kosachev, as he made reference to the phony intelligence that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, “that the US is trying to hoodwink the global public with another ‘test tube containing some white powder’ to justify its own acts of aggression.” Though stated as plausible, not factual, Kosachev said, “America could… be preparing its own preemptive strike against Syrian troops and play on the issue that has already been promoted globally, and so, any preventive actions will be justified.”
Whatever the intelligence or motivations informing the White House, Kosachev added, the threats by Trump should be considered “extremely reprehensible” and “particularly frightening” given the stakes involved. “[The U.S.] can be aware of the upcoming attack and is not trying to prevent it,” he said, “but pin the blame for it on the Syrian leader in advance.”
The latest developments come amid new reporting showing that previous White House claims about what led to the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun, often treated by officials and the U.S. press as certainties, should be met with much more skepticism, especially given the administration’s pattern of making false and misleading statements to the public.
SCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT