11:01 GMT11 August 2020
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    US President Donald Trump's National Security Adviser John Bolton fired warning shots at Damascus on Wednesday, saying that the US would respond "very strongly" if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons in an offensive to retake the Idlib province.

    Speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, Bolton revealed that US officials have been informed of plans in which the Syrian government was considering to "resume offensive military activities."

    "We are obviously concerned about the possibility that Assad may use chemical weapons again," Bolton said. "Just so there's no confusion here: if the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons, we will respond very strongly, and they really ought to think about this a long time."

    ​Rick Sterling, an investigative journalist and member of the Syria Solidarity Movement, told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear on Wednesday that the 69-year-old Baltimore native's statement was "just another violation of international law."

    "It's a threat that the US will use force," Sterling told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. "It's another unauthorized assertion that the US is the judge, jury and executioner of the violations of the chemical weapons treaty."

    "The US has no authority to do that," he stressed.

    When Kiriakou stated that both US and UK governments were quick to blame the Khan Shaykhun attack on the Assad government, despite a lack of evidence it had committed the act. Sterling indicated that former US President Barack Obama was in a way to blame for Syria's current situation after he made his "red line" remark in 2012.

    "When President Obama made his statement, saying that [chemical weapons moving around or being utilized] was the red line… that was seen as the opportunity for the opposition groups to create some kind of incident," he told Kiriakou.

    A year later in August, a sarin attack in the eastern Ghouta suburb of Damascus killed more than 1,500 people, including hundreds of children. Following the incident, hundreds of images surfaced online showing the destruction and chaos in the region.

    After that attack, Obama gave another speech suggesting that the US should intervene, however, that it should be given the go-ahead first by Congress. Intervention received little support from politicians, according to NPR.

    However, when the Trump administration came onto the scene, things changed. After chemical attacks were reported in Syria, Trump responded with force. On April 7, 2017, the United States, along with France and the UK, launched joint missile strikes on Syrian targets in response to the alleged sarin attack on Idlib's Khan Shaykhun just three days prior. A total of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were deployed from the Mediterranean Sea into Syria.

    Sterling later indicated that if something does take place following Bolton's remarks, it could be a staged chemical attack in order to force the US' hand. "If something happens, yes, it's going to be a staged incident, just as the event in April," he said.

    "The US can prolong the war. The enemies of Syria can just make it continue to bleed; they're prolonging the conflict," Sterling added.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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