Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Pentagon: We Have Zero Intelligence That Syrian Opposition Has Chemical Capability

Pentagon: We Have Zero Intelligence That Syrian Opposition Has Chemical Capability

Thursday, 6 September, 2018 - 08:00
Victims of chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib Syria, April 2017 (File Photo: Reuters)
New Delhi, London – Asharq Al-Awsat
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stated that the Pentagon had not seen any evidence indicating that opposition in Syria's northwestern province of Idlib has the ability to conduct chemical weapons attack, despite contradicting Russian announcement.

Mattis made these remarks en route to India, rejecting allegations that the United States is using the talk about chemical weapons to strike Syria.

US military already carried out several air strikes against Bashar al-Assad's regime after two supposed chemical weapons attacks.

“We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability. We have not seen it used in Syria,” Mattis asserted.

The Secretary told the reporters that “any chemical weapon use coming up in the future could be ascribed to the opposition, well, we want to see the data.”

Among the Russian reports, Russian news agency Sputnik quoted the Russian Ministry of Defense as saying that fighters from "Fatah al-Sham Front" were preparing to fabricate a "provocation" and have kidnapped 44 children in Idlib to use in a staged chemical attack.

Matiss did not answer a question on whether the Pentagon saw any indications that the Assad regime is getting ready to use chemical weapons.

“I'd prefer not to answer that right now...I think the best answer to that is: we are very alert,” the Secretary asserted.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump warned Assad not to “recklessly attack” in the last rebel-held Idlib province, warning that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed.

For over a month now, the Syrian army has been mobilizing troops there and reinforcements have been brought into the region, as Russia launched raids on the region Tuesday and escalated its war rhetoric ahead of an expected attack by Russian troops.

US announced Tuesday that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on Friday on the situation in Idlib, warning Assad's regime not to use chemical weapons ahead of a widely expected military offensive there.

“This is a tragic situation, and if they want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said during a news conference.

“But they cannot do it with chemical weapons. They can’t do it assaulting their people and we’re not going to fall for it,” indicated the Ambassador.

“If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly who’s going to use them,” added Haley.

Editor Picks