Syrian officials have pushed back against the White House's accusation that the Assad government is planning another chemical weapons attack. In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Ali Haidar, the Minister for National Reconciliation in Syria, denied that they are planning another chemical attack, claiming that the government possessed no such weapons and characterizing the White House's statement as an attempt to set up a “diplomatic battle” against Bashar al-Assad's government.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released the statement on Monday evening, citing no sources for the information contained within it:
According to the New York Times, numerous American military officials were "caught off guard" by the allegations, and whether the intelligence was previously classified information that President Trump chose to declassify is still unknown.
Multiple Russian officials also came to Syria's defense and pushed back on Spicer's statement. “I am not aware of any information about a threat that chemical weapons can be used,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov, the AP reported. “Certainly, we consider such threats to the legitimate leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic unacceptable.”
Frants Klintsevich, the Russian Parliament's deputy chairman of the defense and security committee, spoke to Russian media and accused the U.S. of “preparing a new attack on the positions of Syrian forces.” Klintsevish added that "preparations for a new cynical and unprecedented provocation are underway."
One of the strongest U.S. allies also appeared to question the White House's claim. Michael Fallon, defense secretary of the UK, confirmed the country's support of the U.S. in matters concerning Syria, but added that the U.S. had still not shared any evidence in connection to a future attack.
"As always in war, the military action you use must be justified, it must be legal, it must proportionate, it must be necessary," he said during an interview on BBC Radio 4's Today show. "In the last case it was. If the Americans take similar action again, I want to be very clear, we will support it."
Warning from White House to Syria's Assad: If he "conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he...will pay a heavy price." pic.twitter.com/e8iR1NAu9C— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) June 27, 2017
On Tuesday, the Pentagon claimed that a Syrian base previously utilized for the sarin gas attacks in April had recently been observed partaking in activities involving chemical weapons.
Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders countered reports suggesting that the information revealed in Monday's statement was new to defense officials. "We want to clarify that all relevant agencies... were involved in the profess from the beginning," she said. "Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false."