U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton has warned the Syrian government it should not see the impending U.S. military withdrawal from the country as an invitation to use chemical weapons.
U.S. President Donald Trump said in December that U.S. troops had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State militants and were no longer needed in the country.
The announcement, which took officials in Washington and allies abroad by surprise, contributed to Jim Mattis’ decision to resign as U.S. defense secretary and prompted concern that Islamic State could stage a comeback
Trump has twice bombed Syria over the government’s alleged use of chemical weapons, in April 2017 and April 2018. In September a senior U.S. official said there was evidence showing chemical weapons were being prepared by Syrian government forces in Idlib, the last major rebel stronghold in the country.
More than half a million people have died during the Syrian war and 11 million have been forced to flee their homes.
If chemical weapons were to be used, “a lot of options would be on the table … if they don’t heed the lessons of those two strikes the next one will be more telling,” Bolton said.