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An ominous warning to the Syrian government against staging a chemical weapons attack indicates that the United States could be on the verge of another military strike inside Syria, an analyst say.
“It sounds as if the United States may be planning an attack on Syria,” Keith Preston, director of Attack the System, told Press TV.
“We have to remember that the last time the White House came out and made an accusation of this kind against Syria, those comments served as a precursor to the subsequent attack on Syria,” he added.
The Pentagon said on Tuesday the US intelligence services had detected increased activity at Shayrat airfield in the central province of Homs, the same base targeted by a massive US cruise missile strike early in April.
“This involved specific aircraft in a specific hangar, both of which we know to be associated with chemical weapons use,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said.
The Pentagon’s statement gave weight to an ominous warning from the White House Monday night, in which Press Secretary Sean Spicer accused President Bashar al-Assad’s government of “potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack.”
Spicer also threatened that if President Assad “conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
The April strike on Shayrat followed accusations by US officials that the airfield had been used to launch a gas attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the western Idlib province two days earlier.
Syria and its ally Russia said a militant-held chemical arms depot had been damaged in an airstrike on militant positions, causing a leakage of the toxic substance that caused over 80 deaths.
In the days following the missile strike, Defense Secretary James Mattis cautioned that the US was prepared to take further action if Syria launched another gas attack.
The latest accusation, Preston said, “is consistent with the ongoing geopolitical strategy that the United States has been pursuing in the region.”
“While the American government has long been claiming to be fighting ISIS (Daesh) in Syria, that is not certainly the case at all,” he noted. “The United States has actually undermined efforts by other forces in the region to successfully combat ISIS.”
“The primary objection of the United States is the elimination of the Syrian government of President Assad,” Preston said.
Escalation with Russia, Iran
The latest US threats against Damascus marked a further escalation of tensions in a country where Russia and Iran are also working with the Syrian government to defeat Daesh.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said the White House also aimed to send a message to Russia and Iran that if a chemical attack happens again, “we are putting you on notice.”
“What this seems to indicate is that the Americans are trying to escalate hostilities not only with Syria but also with Russia and Iran even,” Preston said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”
Peskov said that despite Russia’s calls, an independent probe into the April chemical incident was never conducted, adding, “That is why we do not think it is possible to lay the blame on the Syrian armed forces.”
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also posted a tweet in reaction to the latest US threat. “Another dangerous US escalation in Syria on fake pretext will only serve ISIS (Daesh), precisely when it’s being wiped out by Iraqi and Syrian people,” he said.