In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speak during meeting with heads of local councils from all Syrian provinces, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2018.

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad speak during meeting with heads of local councils from all Syrian provinces, in Damascus, Syria, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2018. SANA / AP

U.S. Probes Suspected Chlorine Attack

Military action against Syria over the use of chlorine would represent a de facto shift in policy.

A suspected chlorine attack on Sunday by the Syrian government in northwest Syria is under investigation by the United States, State Department officials say.

Syrian Special Envoy Jim Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday that the United States so far could not confirm the specific chemical agent used.

"We at this point do not have any confirmation that chlorine, which was the substance that was suggested or alleged has been used — but again, we haven't finished our review of that,” Jeffrey said.

On Tuesday, State Department spokeswoman Moran Ortagus said that the United States “continues to see signs” that Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s government “may be renewing its use of chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack in northwest Syria.” Ortagus said the Trump administration considers the use of such weapons unacceptable.

President Trump has twice launched limited air strikes on the Syrian regime following chemical weapons attacks in April 2017 and April 2018 that killed more than 120 people.

The acting U.S. representative to the United Nations, Jonathan Cohen, said on Friday that “any use of chemical weapons, including chlorine gas, will be met by a strong, swift response.”

Neither Ortagus nor Jeffrey specified whether that response might include further strikes on the Assad regime.

But past airstrikes have responded to the use of what was believed at the time to be sarin — “the most volatile of the nerve agents,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — rather than the less-deadly chlorine. If the United States were to take military action against Syria over a chlorine attack, it would represent a de facto shift in U.S. policy.

“Even though officials have been loath to admit it, the prohibition against chemical weapons use in Syria has in the past been understood to only pertain to highly lethal nerve agents such as sarin but not the easily-produced and far less deadly chlorine,” Tobias Schneider, an independent analyst who tracks reported chlorine attacks, told the Washington Post in 2018.

As an official matter, the State Department considers the use of chlorine gas to violate the Chemical Weapons Convention. In 2013, Assad’s government signed the agreement and subsequently turned over various chemical weapons. But no chlorine was among those relinquished stockpiles, and Syria is believed to have since used chlorine gas as a weapon.

The United States has an uneven history of responding to chemical gas attacks in Syria. President Obama in 2012 famously said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line,” but lacking support from Congress, did not act after a suspected sarin attack by Assad the following year. Republicans have since ridiculed Obama for failing to follow through. Trump also said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” before the 2017 and 2018 strikes.

“So far, we cannot confirm it,” Jeffrey said.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.