(National Sentinel)Â War Drums: As the Syrian military prepares to assault Idlib, where the last rebel stronghold remains, the top U.S. envoy to the region says the Assad government is prepping to use chemical weapons.
That comes as Russian military officials have warned American counterparts they are preparing to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces and that targeting could include a base currently occupied by a group of U.S. troops.
There are other developments as well,Â Zero Hedge reports:
- Trump has reportedly done a 180 shift, departing from his prior statements of “bring our troops home” made only months ago,Â and has approvedÂ “an indefinite military and diplomatic effort in Syria”Â according to a bombshellÂ Washington PostÂ report.Â
- Russia hasÂ put the US military on notice,Â telling American commandersÂ thatÂ Russian and Syrian forces are prepared to attackÂ At TanfÂ â€”Â a key US garrison along the Syrian-Iraq border.
- A top US Syria policy representative saysÂ there’sÂ â€œlots of evidenceâ€ chemical weapons are being prepared by the Syrian Army for use in its impending Idlib ground assault.Â
What’s most concerning is that the Trump administration has threatened to respond harshly to any further use of chemical weapons by Assad, just as it has in the past.
Reuters reported on Thursday:
There is “lots of evidence” thatÂ chemicalÂ weaponsÂ are being prepared byÂ Syrian government forces inÂ IdlibÂ region in northwestÂ Syria, the new US representative forÂ SyriaÂ said on Thursday, warning any attack on the last big rebel enclave would be a “reckless escalation.”
“Any offensive is to us objectionable as a reckless escalation,” the envoy, Jim Jeffrey, told reporters. “There is lots of evidence thatÂ chemicalÂ weaponsÂ are being prepared.”
There are reportedly some 3 million civilians living in the Idlib region. U.S. and Western officials have repeatedly warned of a humanitarian disaster should Assad — backed by Russian and Iranian forces — launch an attack.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has also warned that any use of chemical weapons by Syria would bring severe consequences.
“If they want to continue to go the route of taking over Syria, they can do that, but they cannot do it with chemical weapons,” she said.Â “They canâ€™t do it assaulting their people. And weâ€™re not gonna fall for it. If there are chemical weapons that are used, we know exactly whoâ€™s gonna use them.”
Jeffrey appeared to have been citing intelligence when he claimed that the U.S. had all the evidence it needed regarding the preparation of chemical weapons. But there is always a concern, too, that rebel forces under siege and on the verge of defeatÂ could stage a chemical attack of their own in order to draw in the U.S. unwittingly on their side.
And then things could escalate very quickly.
Russia has cited its own intelligence reports claiming that Syrian rebels are preparing to do just that.
Major provocations with the alleged use of chemical weapons are planned in Syria with the participation of foreign specialists, Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told reporters on Sunday.
“According to the information that the Russian Reconciliation Center for Syria received today from the residents of the Idlib, foreign (English-speaking) experts arrived in the Hbit settlement located in the south of the Idlib zone of de-escalation for staging a â€˜chemical attackâ€™ using chlorine-loaded missiles,” said he.
Who’s right? Russia would not intentionally invite a U.S. response, right? What would be the point of that?
And POTUS Trump’s initial policy was to get U.S. forcesÂ out of Syria as quickly as possible, so the White House wouldn’t be in favor of needlessly escalating the situation with a false flag operation, right?
Syria analyst Joshua Landis muddied the waters further. In an interview withÂ Newsweek, he said, “I don’t know what to make of the U.S. and Russian war of words over the potential use of chemical weapons in Idlib. The final reports on the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta were not definitive.”
“There was no evidence found for the use of nerve agents, but controversy over the use of chlorine gas.Â The rebels had reason to carry out a false flag operation, as the regime and Russians suggested, but the regime refused to let U.N. inspectors in to test for chemical weapons until after a lengthy delay, which was suspicious,” he noted.
After seven years of proxy war in Syria, is it possible that in its final stages there will be great power conflict that commanders on both sides have managed to avoid thus far?