May 21, 2019 - Politics & Policy

U.S. issues warning as signs point to Syria's use of chemical weapons

A woman standing in the rubbles following an attack in Idlib, Syria

Idlib province, Syria, May 20, 2019. Photo: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

The State Department reportedly uncovered evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has continued to use chemical weapons against civilians, per a press release, issuing a warning that the U.S. and its allies would respond "quickly and appropriately" if the violence was verified.

"The United States reiterates its warning, first issued by President Trump in September 2018, that an attack against the Idlib de-escalation zone would be a reckless escalation that threatens to destabilize the region."
— U.S. State Department

Context: It has been nearly a year since President Trump ordered airstrikes in Syria in response to a chemical weapons attack. More recently, Trump announced and quickly walked back a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria, reiterating that his focus is on countering ISIS, rather than the political future of the country, per Axios' World Editor Dave Lawler.

The state of play. The State Department also pointed to false narratives Russian government-run media has been circulating about the White Helmets — a group that rescues civilians during strikes — as part of an attempt to place blame on others for the chemical attacks. These stories are a "pretext in advance of the Assad regime’s own barbaric chemical weapons attacks."

Details: Syrian forces allegedly carried out a chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, on May 19, which, if proven true, violates a ceasefire agreement protecting millions of civilians.

Go deeper