April 21, 2017

Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Friday asserted Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime still has chemical weapons, though he did not present evidence for his claim.

"There can be no doubt in the international community's mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all," Mattis said at a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. "The amount of it I don't want to get into it right now," he added. "We don't reveal some of that detail because we don't want to reveal how we're finding out."

Assad denies holding chemical weapons, and he has claimed the chemical attack in Syria earlier this month was faked. More than 80 people were killed by what is believed to be sarin gas, and President Trump authorized a 59-missile strike on Assad regime targets in response.

For more on chemical weapons on Syria and how the U.S. should react, check out this analysis from David Faris at The Week. Bonnie Kristian

April 16, 2017
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Citing Asma al-Assad's posts on social media in support of her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Britain's Liberal Democrats are calling on the U.K. home secretary to revoke the passport of Syria's first lady, who was born in Britain.

Tom Brake, foreign affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, has written to Amber Rudd, requesting that she use her authority to rescind Asma al-Assad's citizenship. "The first lady of Syria has acted not as a private citizen but as a spokesperson for the Syrian presidency," he said, and the British government should tell her to "either stop using your position to defend barbaric acts, or be stripped of your citizenship." They have the support of Tory MP Nadhim Zahawi, who said Asma al-Assad is "very much part of the propaganda machine that is committing war crimes."

Asma al-Assad was educated in Britain and worked as an investment banker before marrying Bashar al-Assad in 2000. Following a chemical weapons attack earlier this month in Syria believed to have been carried out by the regime, a social media account for Asma al-Assad posted a message calling the retaliatory strike by the U.S. an "irresponsible act that only reflects a shortsightedness, a narrow horizon, a political and military blindness to reality and a naive pursuit of a frenzied false propaganda campaign." Catherine Garcia

April 15, 2017
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An explosion believed to be caused by a car bomb killed at least 39 people fleeing villages near Aleppo, Syria, on Saturday, local news outlets reported.

The bomb hit a group of buses heading into the city to escape fighting in or near the residents' towns. The buses were among a convoy of vehicles carrying about 5,000 people which was delayed at a checkpoint outside the city since Friday.

Children are reportedly among the dead, as were about 20 rebel fighters, said an unnamed rebel leader. The van thought to have been used in the attack was marked as a humanitarian relief vehicle. Bonnie Kristian

April 13, 2017

An American-led airstrike Tuesday killed 18 Syrian fighters who were assisting in the fight against the Islamic State, The New York Times reports.

Coalition allies had requested Tuesday's strike, believing they had "identified ... an ISIS fighting position." It was in fact a "fighting position" of the Syrian Democratic Forces, who are assisting the U.S. in the fight against ISIS.

The United States Central Command called the strike "tragic" and said "the coalition's deepest condolences go out to the members of the S.D.F. and their families."

There have been two other instances in the past month where American-led airstrikes killed civilians or allies. The Pentagon is investigating airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in a mosque in Syria and as many as 200 people in a building in Mosul, Iraq. Jeva Lange

April 13, 2017

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad claimed in an interview with AFP that the chemical weapon attack in Idlib last week was a "fabrication" by the U.S. to justify a military strike on a Syrian airfield. "Definitely, 100 percent for us, it's fabrication ... Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," Assad said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also recently claimed without evidence that opposition rebels in Syria are planning fake chemical attacks to increase U.S. involvement in the country. "We have seen it all already," Putin said in reference to the suspicions about weapons of mass destruction that drove America's 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The White House said Tuesday that it has intelligence that confirms Assad used sarin gas on his own people. U.S. authorities additionally suspect Russia of having attempted to help Assad cover-up the attack by bombing a hospital that was treating victims. The White House said Tuesday that Assad and Putin are promoting "false narratives" in an attempt to distract from their own involvement. Jeva Lange

April 7, 2017

A Russian frigate loaded with cruise missiles is expected to enter the Mediterranean on Friday, bound for the Syrian port of Tartus, the Russian news agency TASS reports. The Admiral Grigorovich is reportedly on a routine voyage, but tensions remain high as Russia pledged to help Syria strengthen its air defenses and suspended a deal with the U.S. to avoid mid-air incidents following an American attack on a Syrian airbase early Friday.

A person familiar with the ship's movements told TASS that the frigate will stay off Syria's coasts for as long as the situation calls for, but "in any way it will last more than a month." Jeva Lange

April 6, 2017

The Pentagon announced Thursday night that Russia, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's allies, was notified before the U.S. launched nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles against an airfield near Homs, Syria.

Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said Russia was alerted via the established deconfliction line, and "U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield." The strike was a "proportionate response" to the chemical weapons attack on Tuesday in Idlib, Syria, which killed dozens of people and injured hundreds more, Davis said; the Syrian government has denied being responsible for the assault. U.S. intelligence has concluded that the airfield was the base where the planes that carried out the attack took off from, he added, and is also where Assad's chemical weapons are stored.

Davis said early indications are that the strike "severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment" at the airfield, "reducing the Syrian government's ability to deliver chemical weapons. The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated." Catherine Garcia

April 6, 2017
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President Trump's position on Syria dramatically shifted after he saw the images of children killed in a chemical weapons attack against the residents of Idlib, Syria, CNN's Jim Acosta reports.

People close to Trump told Acosta he was "affected" by the photographs he saw of young victims and "felt compelled to act." The U.S. has pinned the attack, which left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured, on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad; the government has denied all responsibility. Early Friday, the U.S. launched nearly 60 Tomahawk missiles on the al-Shayrat military airfield near Homs, hitting a runway, aircraft, and gas fuel pumps. It is believed the planes that dropped the chemicals on Tuesday took off from the al-Shayrat airfield. Catherine Garcia

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