Matthew Sneed
Impunity Watch Reporter, The Middle East

WASHINGTON D.C., United States – On February 1, President Trump’s administration accused Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government of developing new chemical weapons. Officials say that the recent alleged attacks in Syria show characteristics similar to the chemical weapons attacks in 2013, the same year Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapon program.

Workers and police stand outside of a restaurant following a missile attack in Syria on February 1. Photo courtesy of Can Erok.

Officials believe that the weapons used are not necessarily newly invented weapons, but rather they are being deployed in a new method. The possible reason for this is because the new deployments make it harder to trace the origins of the attack. For example, during the attacks in 2013, barrel bombs were used to launch chemical weapons, now, those have been replaced with ground-launched munitions. In addition, chlorine is being used more because of its non-chemical uses and because it is easy to acquire. Also, the chemical compound sarin has been found in the remains of recent attacks.

Speaking on anonymity, officials said the President has not ruled out a military response to Syria’s actions. “We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons,” one official said, but would not go into detail about how serious a chemical attack would need to be to generate a military response. However, another official said the administration hopes that the increased sanctions and diplomatic pressure placed on Syria will be enough to stop the weapons program.

Assad’s government continues to deny the use of chemical weapons and Russia, Syria’s ally, claimed the reports of chemical attacks were false. Last year, Russia vetoed the renewal of the of the Joint Investigative Mission, a U.N. committee dedicated to the investigation of chemical weapons. This led the U.S. and other nations to accuse Russia of covering the attacks used by Assad’s army.

Official’s believe that Assad risks using such dangerous weapons to terrorize rebels and civilians, causing them to evacuate. This would allow him to consolidate control to specific regions. The weapons also compensate for Assad’s inability to take certain regains due to a lake of manpower. Moreover, officials believe that if the attacks continue without an adequate response, there will be an increased number of smaller chemical attacks. One official said, “They think they can get away with it if they keep it under a certain level.”

Since 2011, more than 5.4 million people have fled the country while millions more have been displaced inside the country itself. Over 13 million inside the country are in need and at least 3 million are in areas the U.N. describes as “hard to reach and besieged.”

For more information please see:

The Washington Post – US says Syria making new chemical weapons despite 2013 deal – 1, Feb. 2018

Reuters – U.S. says Syria may be developing new types of chemical weapons – 1, Feb. 2018

CBS News – Syria may be making new types of chemical weapons, U.S. says – 1, Feb, 2018

Author: Matthew Sneed