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.
What We're Following See More »
"The FBI rejected a recent White House request to publicly knock down media reports about communications between Donald Trump's associates and Russians known to US intelligence during the 2016 presidential campaign, multiple US officials briefed on the matter tell CNN. But a White House official said late Thursday that the request was only made after the FBI indicated to the White House it did not believe the reporting to be accurate."
Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, "said on Wednesday she's open to using a subpoena to investigate President Donald Trump's tax returns for potential connections to Russia." She said the committee is also open to subpoenaing Trump himself. "This is a counter-intelligence operation in many ways," she said of Russia's interference. "That's what our committee specializes in. We are used to probing in depth in this area."
"Top lawyers who helped the Obama White House craft and hold to rules of conduct believe President Donald Trump and his staff will break ethics norms meant to guard against politicization of the government — and they’ve formed a new group to prepare, and fight. United to Protect Democracy, which draws its name from a line in President Barack Obama’s farewell address that urged his supporters to pick up where he was leaving off, has already raised a $1.5 million operating budget, hired five staffers and has plans to double that in the coming months." Meanwhile, NPR has launched a "Trump Ethics Monitor" to track the resolution of ten ethics-related promises that the president has made.