The Pentagon said the USA had "observed activities at Shayrat air base that suggest possible intent by the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons again".
Two months after Donald Trump launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria in response to a gas attack that killed dozens of civilians, the White House on Monday night said the U.S. had detected signs that the regime of Bashar al-Assad was planning another attack.
US-led coalition air strikes killed almost 60 people at a Syrian prison run by the Islamic State group, a monitor said Tuesday, as Washington insisted the jihadists remain its only target.
The White House says Syria may be preparing another chemical weapons attack on its citizens.
BOWMAN: Well, I'm told surveillance showed the hallmarks of chemical weapons activity at this Syrian air base.
A White House official said Monday's statements were the "equivalent of putting someone on notice" and not "incongruous with the President's broader foreign policy strategy" about not telegraphing his decisions. He said that while the U.S. has coordinated with various "converging forces", it has to maintain high-level interactions with Russian Federation to keep moving against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed the importance of a unified response in the event of another chemical attack in Syria, according to a readout of a phone call the two held Tuesday. Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, said threats posed to the "legitimate leadership" of Syria were "unacceptable". Since Trump's inauguration, USA involvement in Syria has deepened.
Washington launched a retaliatory cruise missile strike days later against a Syrian airbase from where it said the chemical attack was launched, the first direct U.S. action against the Syrian regime. "If, however, Mr Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price".
The overnight White House threat caught many in Trump's own administration by surprise.
Mattis added that while U.S. forces open fire only on Islamic State enemies, they will fire back "under legitimate self-defense" if somebody "takes a heading on us or fires on us".
Trump, despite authorizing strikes earlier this year, has been inconsistent on Syria.
"And when he didn't cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat", Trump had said.