What's Behind US Claims of Chemical Attack Preparation in Syria

© REUTERS / Ammar AbdullahCivil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes on Tuesday, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 5, 2017
Civil defense members inspect the damage at a site hit by airstrikes on Tuesday, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 5, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Washington’s claims about Damascus preparing for a new chemical attack in Syria are either nonsense or a provocation, according to Boris Dolgov, senior research fellow at the Institute for Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Smoke rises from the Raqqa province Syria. (File) - Sputnik International
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Earlier this week, the White House claimed that the Syrian government was conducting "potential preparations" for a chemical weapons attack.

The statement warned that if Damascus conducted a chemical attack, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his military "will pay a heavy price."

"This statement is alarming. I’d like to emphasize that even discussing the possibility of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Army against civilians is absurd," Dolgov told Sputnik.

The expert pointed out that in 2013 when the first chemical weapons allegations were made against Damascus, Russian experts confirmed that the components for those weapons had been brought to Syria from other countries.

"Using chemical weapons on its own territory against its own people, this doesn’t make sense. Carrying out a chemical attack amid the negotiations in Astana and Geneva, amid efforts to find a political solution – it would be rather madness or a provocation," Dolgov said.

In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, the guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) launches a tomahawk land attack missile in the Mediterranean Sea, Friday, April 7, 2017. - Sputnik International
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He suggested that a provocation would be a more likely version in the current situation.

"The goal of such statements is clear. It is an attempt to once again portray the Syrian leadership as tyranny acting against its people. This statement is aimed at discrediting Damascus, in order to lay the basis for a provocation or aggression against the Syrian government," the expert said.

In April, the US and other Western countries accused Damascus of a chemical weapons incident in Idlib. The allegations were used by Washington as an excuse for a missile strike on a Syrian airbase.

On April 4, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, supported by the United States, blamed the Syrian government for an alleged chemical weapon attack in Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s Idlib province.

Men ride a motorbike past a hazard sign at a site hit by an airstrike on Tuesday in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 5, 2017 - Sputnik International
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In response to the incident, Washington, which had not presented any proof of the chemical weapons’ use by Damascus, launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian governmental military airfield in Ash Sha’irat on April 6.

Damascus has repeatedly denied any involvement in the incident and said that the Syrian government doesn't possess chemical weapons as the full destruction of Damascus’ chemical weapons stockpile had been confirmed by the OPCW in January 2016.

In an interview with Sputnik on April 21, Syrian President Bashar Assad characterized the alleged chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun as a provocation to justify the US strike on Ash Sha’irat. The Syrian leader also warned of the possibility of the new provocations similar to the one in Khan Sheikhoun.

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