U.S. Syria envoy ‘cannot confirm’ latest claim of chemical weapons in Syria

May 22, 2019

President Trump’s top envoy on Syria said Wednesday he was not prepared to verify that the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is once again using chemical weapons, despite a warning from the State Department Damascus may be renewing the practice against the last anti-government rebel positions.

Ambassador James Jeffrey told the House Foreign Relations Committee that “so far,” he “cannot confirm” the use of chemical weapons in Syria, “but we are watching it.”

Tuesday evening, a spokesperson for the State Department said the U.S. has seen “signs that the Assad regime may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria” on Sunday.

“We are still gathering information on this incident, but we repeat our warning that if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons, the United States and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately,” according to the spokesperson.

A report by the Global Public Policy Institute released earlier this year said that Mr. Assad has used chemical weapons in his country’s civil war more than 300 times over just the past five years, with the vast majority coming since President Obama declared in 2013 that chemical attacks constituted a “red line” that could not be crossed.

The department alleged that Russia and Mr. Assad’s forces are continuing a “disinformation campaign ... to create the false narrative that others are to blame for chemical weapons attacks that the Assad regime itself is conducting.”

Mr. Jeffrey said that while his team believes “Russia can play an important role in resolving this conflict, they can also play a role in making it worse.”

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