U.S. intelligence officials are looking into fresh chemical-strike reports emerging from civil-war-torn Syria, among them an August incident said to have taken place northeast of Damascus, insiders told Foreign Policy magazine for a Monday report.
Allegations of chemical-weapons use have fallen significantly in quantity since early June, around the time that government forces seized Qusair in a key military win for President Bashar Assad’s regime. U.S. officials see the recent drop-off in attacks, once the government had obtained the upper hand in the conflict, as a sign that it likely was responsible for unleashing chemicals earlier, when Assad’s military was seen to be losing battles.
President Obama last year said any use of Syria’s large chemical arsenal would breach a “red line” and could force a strong U.S. response.
One U.S. intelligence official said, though, that “as long as they keep body count at a certain level, we won’t do anything.”
The insiders added that they reportedly are monitoring ongoing transfers near Khan Abu Shamat and other major chemical-weapons storehouses overseen by Assad’s forces.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday said international investigators had launched an on-the-ground assessment of three incidents of alleged chemical arms use in Syria. The effort would continue for at least two weeks and could “be extended by mutual consent,” he said in a statement to reporters.
“The mission must have full access to the sites of the alleged incidents,” the U.N. chief stated. “This includes access to the reported sites to undertake the necessary analyses and to collect samples. It also includes interviews and examination of witnesses, victims, attending medical personnel as well as the conduct of postmortem examinations.”
He noted, though, that wartime conditions would “undoubtedly affect the mission’s activities.”
“If confirmed, the use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances must be held accountable and would constitute an international crime,” he added.
The prime minister of neighboring Jordan on Monday said his government is boosting chemical-warfare readiness near its border with Syria, in part by ramping up its armed-forces presence in the area.
“It is our duty to protect our citizens, border villages and particularly the Zaatari refugee camp” against any Syrian chemical arms, Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said in comments reported by Deutsche Presse-Agentur.
- 1 Why George W. Bush Won’t Go to the GOP Convention
- 2 Democrats Plan to Pound Trump Before He’s Nominated
- 3 Schools in Poor Areas Have More Students with Mental Health Needs
- 4 Is Trump Rich Enough to Fund a General-Election Campaign?
- 5 The 1 Easy Way Donald Trump Could Have Been Even Richer: Doing Nothing
What We're Following See More »
Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."
In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."
President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"