After a chemical attack on a rebel-held town in April, the US retaliated with a missile strike
Trump said in April it was in the "vital national security" of the US to prevent use of chemical weapons
The White House has warned there are “potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack” by the Syrian regime and told the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, he would face a “heavy price” if one is carried out.
The announcement comes amid rising tensions in Syria between the US-led coalition and Russia, which is backing the Assad regime.
The US launched a fierce riposte in the aftermath of the chemical attack launched by Assad’s forces in April – which was condemned across the world – and says it will not hesitate to take action should another similar strike take place. Assad dismissed allegations of the chemical attack as “100% fabrication.”
“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” according to a White House statement released Monday night.
“The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack,” the statement added. “As we have previously stated, the United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
The statement tweeted by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not offer any further details about what the “potential preparations” and “activities” were.
The Kremlin told CNN: “We strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons. We consider it unacceptable.”
Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin “deems unacceptable” threats posed to the “legitimate leadership” of Syria.”
He said Moscow was unaware of the basis for the White House assertion that Syria was planning another chemical attack, adding it was incorrect to blame the Syrian government for previous attacks without an investigation.
Two events in the past month -- the shooting down by a US plane of a Syrian Su-22 and the use of ballistic missiles by Iran against ISIS targets – are evidence of a scramble in eastern Syria that’s been gathering pace since the beginning of the year. Then there was the incident where a US fighter jet shot down a pro-regime drone in the country’s southeast.
Russia responded last week by warning that aircraft operating where the drone incident occurred would be considered “air targets” for its forces in Syria.