U.S. Warns Russia It Will Hit Assad If He Uses Chemical Arms, Sources SayBy Margaret Talev, Jennifer Jacobs, and Alaa Shahine
The U.S. has told Russia it is ready to take strong military action against Syria if President Bashar al-Assad uses chemical weapons to recapture one of his country’s last rebel-held areas, according to four people familiar with the discussions.
U.S. officials say they have information Assad may be planning a chemical attack in the northwestern province of Idlib. At a Thursday meeting in Geneva, National Security Adviser John Bolton told his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, that America is prepared to respond with greater military force than it has used against Assad’s regime in the past, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the content of talks hasn’t been publicly disclosed.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Russia is “very concerned” by the threat and suggested possible chemical attack “provocations” assisted by U.S. spy agencies in Syria as a pretext for new U.S. military action. Russian officials told Bolton about their concerns at the Geneva meeting, Ryabkov said in a phone call Saturday with Bloomberg News.