US, Syrian opposition claim Assad still has chemical capability

US, Syrian opposition claim Assad still has chemical capability
Both the Pentagon and Syrian opposition officials have voiced their concern that the Assad regime still has capacity to conduct chemical attacks, despite last week's US-led airstrikes.
2 min read
19 April, 2018
US military director General Kenneth McKenzie [Getty]
The Syrian regime remains able to conduct chemical attacks, though only at a limited level, the Pentagon said on Thursday, following last week's international cruise missile strikes on chemical targets.

General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the US military's Joint Staff, said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime retains a "residual" chemical capability at a variety of sites across the country.

"They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future," McKenzie told Pentagon reporters, though he said he had no indications a new attack was being planned.

"However as they contemplate the dynamics of conducting those attacks, they have to look over their shoulder and be worried that we are looking at them, and we will have the ability to strike them again should it be necessary."

Read more: Bigger, not better: Assessing Trump's latest bombing of Syria

The remarks were echoed by the president of the Syrian opposition's Negotiations Committee Nasr al-Hariri, who said during a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday that the Assad regime were still in possession of chemical weapons.

Hariri added that the regime had obstructed the international investigation into the incident in order to destroy evidence of the attack.

He also told reporters that Assad is not serious about finding a political situation to the conflict and is intent on continuing his military campaign into rebel-held territory in the north and south of Syria, under the pretext of "fighting terrorism".

On April 13, the US, Britain and France fired more than 100 cruise missiles at three Syrian sites, including a large research centre in Damascus, in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma that killed at least 49, although the official death toll is still unknown.

According to satellite imagery displayed by the Pentagon, the three sites were completely destroyed.

"We achieved the level of success that we wanted against those three targets," General McKenzie said. 

"We believe that there was probably some chlorine and possibly sarin at possibly all of the sites."

The three-star general added the Syrian regime had now returned to a "state of normalcy."

"I don't think we sought to change the strategic balance of the Syria conflict with those strikes. We sought to send a lesson that it's bad practice to gas women and children," McKenzie said.