An international task force arrived in Syria on Wednesday to continue probing allegations of chemical-arms use in the civil war-torn country, Reuters reported.
The U.N. group’s previous trip to Syria coincided with a deadly incident it later attributed to a significant release of sarin nerve gas. The Obama administration blamed Damascus for the strike and prepared to potentially retaliate with force against President Bashar Assad’s regime. Washington set that plan aside, though, after negotiating a blueprint with Moscow to corral and dispose of the Syrian government’s chemical-warfare stockpile.
Chemical-arms disclosures filed by Damascus for the plan appear to be largely comprehensive, and they generally line up with U.S. intelligence findings that the government has approximately 45 facilities to manufacture or hold the weapons, Western government sources told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.
The declarations are “not necessarily 100 percent accurate, and we aren’t naive,” one of the insiders said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minster Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday held a “very constructive” meeting on a draft U.N. Security Council resolution to back up the chemical-disarmament plan, a high-level State Department source told reporters. The sides have differed on how to handle any noncompliance by Damascus.
The leader of Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group separately stressed his “disappointment” to Kerry “that there hadn’t been a military strike” in response to last month’s gas attack, a senior State Department official said in a Tuesday news briefing.
Kerry attempted to assuage the rebel leader’s concerns, according to the insider.
“The secretary said that after Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons on his own people, after he has killed tens of thousands, it is impossible for us to imagine that he would play any role in a subsequent transition government,” the official said.
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"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."
Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-VA) will subpoena two businesses owned by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn. Burr said, "We would like to hear from General Flynn. We'd like to see his documents. We'd like him to tell his story because he publicly said he had a story to tell."