The US launched cruise missiles Thursday
Senior officials briefed reporters Tuesday
The White House said Tuesday the Syrian regime and Russia are trying to “confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks.”
Senior administration officials stopped short of saying there was definitive proof of Russian collusion with Syria on the chemical attack last week, but the administration bluntly accused the Russian government of helping the Syrian regime cover-up chemical weapons still in the country.
“I think it’s clear that the Russians are trying to cover up what happened there,” one senior administration official said.
President Donald Trump authorized cruise missile strikes against President Bashar al-Assad’s military in Syria last week after the regime used sarin gas on their own people, including children. The strikes, which saw 59 tomahawk missiles launched from ships in the eastern Mediterranean, hit the base used to launch the chemical attack.
Trump, in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday, said that despite the action he took on the use of chemical weapons, the United States would not be “going into Syria.”
“What I did should have been done with the Obama administration long before I did it,” Trump said.”And you would have had a much better, I think Syria would be a lot better off than it has been.”
Officials said Tuesday that Russians were located on the small base before the chemical attack was launched.
“We do think that it is a question worth asking the Russians,” another official said. “How is it possible that their forces were located with the Syrian forces that planned, prepared and carried out this chemical weapons attack at the same installation, and did not have foreknowledge?”
“Russia’s allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents,” the official said.
Officials, in a declassified four-page report on the strike and chemical attack, said Tuesday they were “confident” that the Assad regime used sarin gas against their own people. The intelligence community, the report said, was based on intelligence reports and analysis of the samples collected from multiple victims of the attack.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that, despite the report, there was “no consensus in the intelligence community” that Russia was complicit in the attack.
The comments from White House officials come after Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, dismissed the idea they were aware of the chemical attacks.
Exasperated, Putin told reporters that that the story is “very tedious.”