Allegations of Syrian chemical attack unlikely to trigger U.S. intervention
U.S. officials said there is not yet any evidence that the weapon involved in the March 19 attack in the Aleppo province contained a chemical agent. If the weapon did contain a chemical material, reports from the scene suggest it was a lower-level threat than nerve agents held by Assad's regime. Both sides of the Syrian conflict accuse the other of firing the missile, Global Security Newswire reports.
U.S. President Barack Obama previously warned that use or proliferation of Syria's chemical arsenal would breach a red line and provoke a strong response. The phrase has been taken to mean the U.S. would take military action against Syria's government.
"It's probably fair to say that the Obama administration could say we're not going to trigger this just because someone throws a bottle of bleach at someone; what we're looking for here is a step change and loss of control (of materials) that are significant, militarized and could spread outside of Syria," Stephen Johnson, a WMD specialist at Britain's Cranfield University, said according to Global Security Newswire.
The United Nations began an investigation last week of the incident which reportedly led to the deaths of 26 and injured more than 100 in the village of Khan al-Assal.
The U.S. is reportedly looking into the possibility the Assad regime staged the attack to make it look like the opposition used chemical weapons so it could use chemical weapons itself. Another suspicion is that Syrian rebels orchestrated the attack in hopes it would be taken for a military act by Assad requiring outside intervention.
Johnson said other reports of alleged chemical strikes in the last week have provided little detail and proved nearly unverifiable, Global Security Newswire reports.