Published: Fri, September 07, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

White House pledges to 'respond swiftly' if Assad uses chemical weapons again

While it's hard to be sure of the depth of Trump's engagement on Syria policy considering his quick reversals in recent months, he was part of an effort by US officials this week to warn the Syrian regime and its allies not to use chemical weapons or target civilians as they prepare for an assault on Idlib province, the last rebel stronghold. Those included a workshop used by the militants for construction of drones, a warehouse of explosives as well as a storehouse, where they kept their MANPADs.

The area in northwest Syria is home to some 3 million people - the majority of whom were displaced from other regions - as well as an array of Sunni rebels dominated by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Among them were positions of the jihadist Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) alliance, as well as of the hardline Ahrar al-Sham group, the Britain-based monitor said.

Assad's government has been massing thousands of troops in preparation for an assault.

Forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, often backed by Russian warplanes, have steadily gained on the rebels. "The Turks have shown a great deal of resistance to an attack".

Western powers, which never formally entered the conflict other than to back Kurdish-led militias instrumental in ousting the extremist group Islamic State (IS) from its northern stronghold in 2017, have largely watched the brewing battle in Idlib from the sidelines.

Russia, Iran and Syria should be aware that the United States will not leave the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria's Idlib unanswered, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the UN Security Council session on Syria on Thursday. "And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army", Putin said.

Ankara fears a major assault on Idlib could spark an influx of refugees across its borders, and warned a military solution would only cause "disaster".

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Erdogan has warned against such a catastrophic outcome, and has much at stake in efforts to prevent it at the Tehran summit. "And the United States is going to get very angry, too", Trump said Wednesday.

"So we want to take this opportunity to remind Assad and his Russian and Iranian partners: you don't want to bet against the United States responding again", she said. "There are a million children".

It has carried out intense negotiations for weeks with Russian Federation.

"I don't think that either of these countries, or really anyone, has an interest in doing something which is genuinely destabilising to Turkey", he added.

But Russia's President Vladimir Putin said Moscow opposed a truce, and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.

Russian Federation has said the Syrian army is preparing to solve the problem of "terrorism" in the rebel stronghold and reiterated Friday that its position had not changed.

One of the newly sanctioned individuals, Muhammad al-Qatirji and his company Qatirji Company, maintain "strong ties to the Syrian regime and facilitates fuel trade between the regime and ISIS, including providing oil products to ISIS-controlled territory", according to information provided by the Treasury Department, which oversees and enforces sanctions.

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