The White House accused Russia on Tuesday of engaging in a cover-up of the Assad regime’s role in a chemical weapons attack last week, saying that United States intelligence had confirmed that the Assad regime used sarin on its own people.
A four-page report prepared by US President Trump’s National Security Council staff and released by the White House on Tuesday, said that U.S. intelligence has proof that the plane that dropped the sarin nerve agent on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 left from Shaerat airfield, which Trump ordered to be hit by Tomahawk missiles on April 6.
The dossier indicated that a regime Su-22 fixed-wing aircraft that took off from the regime-controlled Shaerat airbase delivered the chemical agent. It added that regime aircrafts were in the vicinity of Khan Sheikoun approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began and vacated the area shortly after the attack.
The dossier, which was published by the New York Times on Wednesday, asserted that “personnel historically associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program” had been at the airfield in late March preparing for an attack, and on the day it was carried out.
Senior White House officials said Russia’s goal was to cover up the Assad regime’s culpability for the chemical attack. They asserted that the Assad regime, under pressure from opposition forces around the country and lacking enough troops to respond, used the lethal nerve agent sarin to target rebels who were threatening regime-held territory.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the United States is confident in its assessment that the Assad regime used sarin in the bombing of the town of Khan Sheikoun.
At the Pentagon, several officials said the presence of Russian personnel at the Shaerat airfield points to at least a possibility that Russia knew about the chemical attack. But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Tuesday refused to make that direct accusation.
“I’m confident the Russians will act in their own best interests, and there’s nothing in their best interests to say they want this situation to go out of control,” Mattis added.
The White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that “it’s no question that Russia is isolated,” adding that only Moscow and what he described as the “failed states” of Syria, North Korea and Iran disputed Assad’s responsibility for the attack.
Spicer on Monday said that the White House “can’t imagine a stable and peaceful Syria” under the Assad regime. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)