WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Thursday that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government may be developing new, more sophisticated chemical weapons, and signaled it could consider fresh airstrikes against the regime.
The statement comes in the wake of suspected sarin and chlorine attacks — including one unconfirmed attack in the rebel-held town of Douma on Thursday. Washington said it wants to send a message to Bashar Assad’s regime and its Russian backers that enough is enough.
US officials said the characteristics of the recent alleged attacks suggest Syria was producing chemical weapons despite a 2013 deal to destroy its program, and that it was “highly likely” that Syria kept a stockpile of weapons.
The officials also said Syria may be making new kinds of weapons, either to improve their military capability or to escape international accountability.
The officials added that the Islamic State group was still using chemical weapons such as sulfur mustard and chlorine. They said the jihadists were using shells or improvised explosive devices to deliver the chemicals.
Senior administration officials said the US was not ruling out fresh military action against the Syrian regime, in a bid to stop the sustained chemical weapons attacks.
“The Assad regime and ISIS continue to use chemical weapons,” one senior official said. “They just continue to commit really unspeakable atrocities.”
A second official said military options against Damascus similar to those launched in April 2017 were always on the table and “always feasible.”
“He hasn’t excluded anything,” the official said of US President Donald Trump. “Using military force is something that is still considered.”