The White House warned on Monday night that, should President Bashar al-Assad of Syria go ahead with a new chemical attack, the county will “pay a heavy price.” The press secretary for the Trump administration made a statement claiming that preparations observed in Syria appeared to be similar to the preparations made before the chemical attack in April, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of Syrian people.
The White House statement said that if Assad attempts to conduct “another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
The media is speculating that the White House released this information to deter the Syrian president from attempting another attack. The information about potential plans for a chemical attack may have been classified, but President Trump has the absolute power to declassify any information he believes is relevant to the public and the press. Marc Raimondi, the spokesperson for the National Security Council at the White House, said that they are “letting the statement speak for itself.”
Some senior intelligence and defense officials, however, are not familiar with the intelligence referred to in the White House statement. The Independent requested a comment from the White House on Monday night, but did not receive any replies. An official serving at Central Command spoke to BuzzFeed News, and said that they had “no idea” why the White House had released the statement about Assad.
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, clarified that the United States was not taking the threat lightly. In a tweet, Haley said that “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.”
Haley’s comments refer to the fact that Iran and Russia are both currently allied with the Assad regime in Syria. Last week the United States shot down a Syrian warplane that had been dropping munition near soldiers supported by the United States. The soldiers were fighting against the Islamic State, and after the U.S. military took action to defend them, the Russian Defense Ministry made threats to target any American planes that occupy airspace west of the Euphrates River valley.
The threat from Russian forces has created a war inside a war, with American and Russian forces now competing to take control over regions of Syria that are currently ungoverned.
Daryl Kimball, the head of the Arms Control Association, has said that he hasn’t seen a government ever release a public, pre-emptive warning like this in at least 20 years. He told The New York Times that had also not heard about any moves being made by the Syrians to commit chemical attacks – though he did say that new intelligence reports are likely what caused the White House to release the statement.