U.S. Not Yet Sure About Assad's Use of Chemical Weapons
The United States has not yet concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime used chemical weapons against rebel forces, but backs a probe into the matter, the White House said Tuesday.
The comments were made after several allies of the United States, including Israel, said that there is proof the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in the ongoing civil war in the country.
“We support an investigation, we’re monitoring this, and we have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use” of chemical weapons, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters, according to AFP.
Carney recalled that for President Barack Obama, the use of chemical weapons would be “unacceptable.”
“There are those in the Syrian government who have expressed a willingness to use chemical weapons to protect their interests and prolong the rule of the Assad regime,” he said.
“We remain skeptical of any claim that the opposition used chemical weapons,” indicated Carney.
Earlier Tuesday, the head of the Research Section of Military Intelligence in the IDF, Brig. Gen. Itay Brun, said at a conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies that Assad's regime had used chemical weapons in Syria recently.
Several people were killed as a result of this, he said.
"To the best of our professional understanding, the regime has made use of deadly chemical weapons against the rebels in a number of incidents in the past few months," he said, referring to a March 19 incident in Aleppo province in which 31 people were killed, apparently by chemical agents.
Evidence could been seen in the physical symptoms suffered by those who had apparently been exposed to chemical agents, he said.
Britain and France have also presented information to the United Nations on allegations that Syrian regime forces fired chemical arms in the city of Homs in December and at Ataybah near Damascus last month.
The UK Ministry of Defense has said that chemical weapons were used in the Syrian conflict based on forensic evidence that was collected after scientists analyzed soil smuggled out of the country in a secret British operation.
The sample was extracted from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Damascus in March by MI6 agents operating within Syria. The soil was then smuggled out of Syria and handed over to UK Ministry of Defense’s chemical and biological research department.
U.S. intelligence agencies said last week they are investigating accounts that Syria may have used chemical weapons in its war against opposition forces.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday that, despite the IDF official’s claims, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had not been able to confirm Syria’s use of chemical weapons.
“I think it is fair to say [the prime minister] was not in a position to confirm that in the conversation,” Kerry said in Brussels, where he was attending a meeting of NATO foreign ministers.