Allegations of a new chemical attack in Syria’s civil war appear to have gained little attention in Washington, the Daily Beast reports.
Representatives from the rebel-held city of Daraya are demanding a U.N. inquiry into the purported Jan. 13 strike, the publication said on Thursday. However, local leader Oussama al-Chourbaji said U.S. State Department officials “didn’t seem to care that much” when they heard last week from a delegation of witnesses visiting Washington.
The pro-opposition Syrian Support Group accused forces loyal to President Bashar Assad of killing four rebel combatants with a grenade-like device loaded with an unidentified gas. The substance is said to have caused a range of ailments partially alleviated by a sarin nerve agent antidote.
Dan Layman, a spokesman for the U.S.-based group, said “all of those who were affected or killed had the exact same symptoms” as victims of an Aug. 21 sarin strike in a rebel-occupied area close to Damascus. Assad’s regime never claimed responsibility for the 2013 attack, but later confirmed holding chemical weapons and agreed to surrender them amid warnings of a potential U.S. military response.
Al-Chourbaji, a spokesman for the Daraya local council’s medical branch, said an individual claiming to be from the U.S. State Department had asked his municipal body to transfer samples from the incident to neighboring Jordan for analysis. The council member said that request came shortly after the Jan. 13 event, but the Daily Beast reported that materials collected from the possible attack had yet to leave the city as of Thursday.
Al-Chourbaji added that State Department officials directed the witnesses visiting Washington last week to take photographs as they collect chemical traces from any future incidents.
“They said, ‘If they strike you again with chemical weapons, take pictures and tell us,’” he said. “They just advised us to take pictures [to document the taking of the samples] as if we were in a CSI episode. People are dying [and] we are making a movie.”
What We're Following See More »
The White House on Wednesday laid out its plan for tax reform, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying it would be "the biggest tax cut and the largest tax reform in the history of our country." The tax code would be broken down into just three tax brackets, with the highest personal income tax rate cut from 39.6 percent to 35 percent. The plan would also slash the tax rate on corporations and small businesses from 35 percent to 15 percent. "The White House plan is a set of principles with few details, but it’s designed to be the starting point of a major push to urge Congress to pass a comprehensive tax reform package this year," said National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn.
"An emerging government funding deal would see Democrats agree to $15 billion in additional military funding in exchange for the GOP agreeing to fund healthcare subsidies, according to two congressional officials briefed on the talks. Facing a Friday deadline to pass a spending bill and avert a shutdown, Democrats are willing to go halfway to President Trump’s initial request of $30 billion in supplemental military funding."
The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former national security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking member Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents requested are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes is not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.
The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.