Syria developing new types of chemical weapons: US

Syria developing new types of chemical weapons: US
Frequent smaller chemical attacks by pro-Assad forces suggest new weapons and methods of delivery are being developed by the Syrian regime.
3 min read
02 February, 2018
Assad's chemical weapons could spread to "US shores" [Getty]

Senior US officials reported that the Syrian regime might be developing new types of chemical weapons, and that if necessary, President Donald Trump will take military action.

Despite Damascus agreeing to destroy its 1,300-tonne stockpile of industrial munition following a US-Russian deal after the Ghouta attack in 2013, UN inspectors found evidence of an ongoing chemical weapons programme in the country.

This includes the systematic use of chlorine barrel bombs and sarin.

Bashar al-Assad's forces have instead 'evolved' their chemical weapons, and used them in smaller amounts.

Recent attacks in Syria suggest that new weapons and methods of delivery are being developed, possibly to prevent the origin from being traced.

"We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons," one official told Reuters, although he did not specify the severity of an attack that would draw a renewed US military response.

Former US president Barack Obama had called the use of chemical weapons a "red line".

Another official added that there were hopes an increased diplomatic pressure with international sanctions will rein in the Syrian regime's chemical weapons programme.

Assad's chemical weapons could spread to "US shores" the official said, should the international community not respond quickly to limit Assad, warning that "it will spread if we don't do something".

The officials echoed Rex Tillerson, the US Secretary of State's recent accusations against Russia of being responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria - a charge that draw a furious response from Moscow.

We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons

Tillerson said at a conference last week in Paris that Moscow "ultimately bears responsibility for the victims" of chemical weapons attacks in Syria since it became militarily involved in 2015.

He accused Russia of violating its own commitments under a 2013 US-Russia agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles and an international treaty that bars their use.

The US secretary of state's remarks followed the targeting of a Damascus suburb by chemicals for a second time in two weeks. The heavily populated civilian town of Douma was hit in a suspected chlorine gas attack leaving over 21 casualties suffering from burns and breathing difficulties, including children.

Heather Nauert, the US State Department spokesperson, said on Thursday that the US was "extremely concerned" about reports of the Assad regime carrying out another chlorine gas attack.  

If left unchecked, the US officials added, Assad could use small chemical attacks in the hopes to redress the power imbalance in rebel-held areas as an "instrument of terror".

"They think they can get away with it if they keep it under a certain level."

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Damascus has denied using any chemical weapons in the seven-year conflict, blaming the rebels on using it on themselves.

Long-time ally Russia has also rejected claims about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and called into question the results of the OCPW inquiries.

Moscow has even claimed that the rebels staged the attacks to discredit the Syrian regime and whip up international condemnation. Almost all independent analysts and investigators agree the Syrian regime is the culprit of the chemical attacks.

The Damascus suburb of around 400,000 people has been besieged by regime forces since 2013, in an attempt to strangle the rebel region into submission.

Chronic food, fuel and medicine shortages have been reported. The attacks have lead to calls by UN chief for Syria to be taken to the International Criminal Court.