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U.S., Russia dispute if Syrian rebels used chemical weapons

by Mike Hoffman on March 19, 2013

Syria’s Assad regime has accused the rebels of launching a chemical weapons attack in the two of Aleppo that killed 25 people — an accusation the rebel fighters have strongly rebuked.

President Obama has said the “red line” to which the U.S. would send forces to Syria would be the use of chemical weapons. However, it was assumed the Assad regime would be the ones using their chemical weapons stockpile, not the rebels.

A Reuters photographer in Aleppo said he could pick up the faint smell of chlorine, however, other media agencies have thus far been unable to confirm the report because of media restrictions.

The debate has extended to the U.S. and Russia. The Russian foreign ministry has said it has enough information to confirm the rebels launched the chemical attack. Of course, Russia has supported and armed Assad in his fight with the rebels.

Meanwhile, U.S. government leaders have said they have not found any evidence of a chemical attack.

“We’ve seen reports from the Assad regime alleging that the opposition has been responsible for use. Let me just say that we have no reason to believe these allegations represent anything more than the regime’s continued attempts to discredit the legitimate opposition and distract from its own atrocities committed against the Syrian people,” said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. “We don’t have any evidence to substantiate the regime’s charge that the opposition even has CW (chemical weapons) capability.”

In fact, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the accusations made by Assad could be an attempt to cover up his own potential attacks. Such an attack on civilians would mean the U.S. would send in troops, according to Obama’s previous statements.

Adm. James Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command, told the Senate Tuesday that his command has started to make plans should an attack be necessary.

“We are prepared if called upon to be engaged,” Stavridis said.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have consistently called for the U.S. to do more to quell the fighting in Syria. On Tuesday, the two Republican senators issued a statement saying the red line had been crossed and action was demanded.

That should include the provision of arms to vetted Syrian opposition groups, targeted strikes against Assad’s aircraft and SCUD missile batteries on the ground, and the establishment of safe zones inside Syria to protect civilians and opposition groups,” the statement read.

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