Syria retains limited capability for chemical attack: Pentagon

Photo showing Defense Secretary James Mattis at the US Department of Defense in Arlington, Virginia, Apr 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 19 April 2018
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Syria retains limited capability for chemical attack: Pentagon

  • No signs Assad regime is preparing new chemical attacks
  • Syria and Russia deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma

WASHINGTON: The US State Deparmtment said on Thursday that Assad regime troops and their Russian ally have been cleaning up the site of chemical attack in Douma.  Earlier the Pentagon said on Thursday that while there were no signs the Syrian government was preparing to launch a chemical weapons attack, President Bashar Assad still retained the ability to launch limited attacks.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that US assessments following US, British and French joint missile strikes on Syria last weekend show they had only a limited impact on Assad’s ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks.
“They do retain a residual capability. It is probably spread throughout the country at a variety of sites,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, joint staff director.
“They will have the ability to conduct limited attacks in the future, I would not rule that out,” McKenzie said during a Pentagon briefing.
The United States, France and Britain destroyed three targets tied to Syria’s weapons program. The most important of them was the Barzah Research and Development Center, which US intelligence concluded was involved in the production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology.
Syria and Russia deny unleashing poison gas on April 7 during their offensive on Douma, which ended with the recapture of the town that had been the last rebel stronghold near the capital, Damascus. The suspected chemical attack triggered the US response.
McKenzie said that the “absolute preponderance of the evidence” pointed to chemical weapons being present at the sites that were struck, including elements of sarin, particularly at the Barzah site.
He added that while the United States could not know with certainty, there was no evidence that any chemicals had escaped into the air after the strike.


US Treasury imposes sanctions on Iranian network supporting child soldiers

Updated 44 min 42 sec ago
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US Treasury imposes sanctions on Iranian network supporting child soldiers

WASHINGTON: The US Treasury announced new sanctions against Iran's Bank Mellat and Mehr Eqtesad Bank on Tuesday.

The Treasury also announced sanctions against Iran Tractor Manufacturing Company, Esfehan's Mobarakeh Steel Company, as well as other firms.

According to the Tresury, the group make up a multibillion-dollar financial network that supports an Iranian paramilitary force that recruits and trains child soldiers for the country's powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Bonyad Taavon Basij network supports a volunteer paramilitary group, the Basij Resistance Force, which works with the IRGC, the Treasury said in a statement.

Both Basij groups were targeted by the new sanctions.

"This vast network provides financial infrastructure to the Basij's efforts to recruit, train, and indoctrinate child soldiers who are coerced into combat under the IRGC's direction," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Basij is involved in violent crackdowns and serious human rights abuses within Iran, the statement said. It recruits and trains fighters for the IRGC-Quds Force, including Iranian children as young as 12, who then deploy to Syria to support the government of President Bashar al-Assad regime, it said.

The designations highlight that "this Iranian regime is not a normal government," a senior administration official said. "Normal governments don't have revolutionary arms that support revolution and wreak havoc with their neighbors. They don't recruit indoctrinate and use child soldiers."

The sanctions were imposed on Bank Mellat, Mehr Eqtesad Bank, Mehr Eqtesad Iranian Investment Co and five other investment firms, the Treasury said.

The sanctions also target Iran Tractor Manufacturing Co, the Middle East's largest tractor manufacturer, and Esfahan's Mobarakeh Steel Co, the largest steelmaker in the Middle East and North Africa region, Treasury said.