US national security adviser John Bolton has warned that the US, France and UK will launch a ‘much stronger’ response to any chemical weapons attack in Syria, as the US bolsters its regional military presence in preparation.
“We’ve tried to convey the message in recent days that if there’s a third use of chemical weapons, the response will be much stronger,” Bolton told reporters on Monday.
Bolton’s statement comes as tensions around Idlib are rising. Idlib is the last redoubt of terrorist groups including Jabhat al-Nusra and some offshoots of Al Qaeda.
Bolton’s words echo his earlier warnings in August that the US would respond “very strongly” if Assad’s forces were to use chemical weapons in a bit to retake Idlib. Previously, an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma, 10km north of the capital, Damascus, was used as pretext for American, British, and French airstrikes against Syrian government targets in April, while an attack in the northern city of Khan Shaykhun in 2017 was also blamed on Assad, and triggered a US missile attack in response.
Now, Bolton claims that the US, Britain and France are in agreement that a fresh attack would call for more severe retaliation.
“I can say we’ve been in consultation with the British and the French, who joined us in the second strike, and they also agree that another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response,” he said on Monday.
The Russian Ministry of Defense warned on Sunday that terrorist groups, including Jabhat Al-Nusra and the infamous White Helmets, are preparing to stage a chemical attack to give the Western coalition a pretext to strike Assad again.
Russia has repeatedly issued the same warning over the past weeks, and has submitted what Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says are “concrete facts” about an impending false-flag chemical attack to the US government, the UN, and the OPCW (Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons). The Russian government claims that chlorine gas canisters have already been put in place in Idlib for use in the attack.
As if waiting for such an attack, the US has been bolstering its presence in the region recently. Three US destroyers and four nuclear submarines have been deployed to the eastern Mediterranean, and US forces launched an air-assault exercise in southern Syria backed by artillery fire over the weekend.
In addition, USS ‘The Sullivans,’ armed with 56 cruise missiles, was also sent the Persian Gulf, and B1-B supersonic bombers have been relocated to the US airbase in Qatar earlier this year.
In Washington, President Trump is reportedly in “routine dialog” with the Pentagon over his military options in Syria, while the US’ allies, Britain and France, have also confirmed their readiness to attack Syria in the event of a chemical attack.
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