White House Syria Chemical Weapons Warning Catches US Military Off Guard
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Five US defense officials, including one from US Central Command, said that they do not know where a chemical attack announced recently by the White House will come from and they had no idea that the government was planning a statement on this, a report said.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer issued a statement Monday that said the US “has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack” by the Syrian government.
It warned that if Assad “conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
However, several defense officials told the New York Times that the statement caught them off guard. It is not clear how closely guarded the intelligence about the potential attack was.
The warning surprised Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. He said he could not recall a pre-emptive public warning about the use of banned weapons like this “in at least the last 20 years.” Usually, warnings are sent through diplomatic channels, he said.
Soon after the White House statement America’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, tweeted that “any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”
It is not the first time that the White House and President Donald Trump have eschewed the advice of cabinet members and military advisers to issue statements that could have sweeping national security implications.
During a speech at the NATO alliance’s new headquarters at the end of May, Trump hesitated to affirm NATO’s Article 5—which says an attack on one member is an attack on all—despite advice from his generals.
National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all worked to include a statement supporting Article 5 in Trump’s speech, according to five sources that spoke with Politico. Trump reportedly took it out at the last minute.
The White House statement Monday did not lay out precise details of what shape a “heavy price” for Assad would take after another alleged chemical attack.