U.S. warns of 'much stronger response' if Syria uses chemical weapons against civilians

John Bolton.
(Image credit: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)

National Security Adviser John Bolton said the United States is working with Britain and France to plan a coordinated attack against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government should he use chemical weapons during an expected offensive in Idlib province.

The U.S. hit Syrian targets with missiles in April 2017 and April 2018 after Assad was accused of using chemical weapons against civilians, and Bolton said Monday that France and the U.K. agreed that "another use of chemical weapons will result in a much stronger response." It appears that a battle is imminent, with monitoring groups saying Russia has launched 70 airstrikes in the province and the Syrian government has dropped dozens of barrel bombs.

This is the last part of Syria where rebels have control, and it's estimated that three million civilians and 70,000 opposition fighters are in the area. Charity groups have said that any kind of sustained fighting could start a humanitarian crisis, and Turkey has already said it will not let people trying to escape to safety cross its border. A U.S. official said the Trump administration has learned from intelligence sources that Assad gave the military permission to use chlorine gas during the offensive, The Wall Street Journal reports, and that's one reason why they are publicly warning the regime.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.