The United States says it has identified “potential preparations” for a chemical attack by Syrian government forces similar to an April attack in northern Syria that prompted U.S. airstrikes in response.
A statement late Monday from White House press secretary Sean Spicer warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that if government forces do carry out another chemical attack, then “he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
There was no specific information or evidence presented about the alleged preparations.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter that any further attacks against Syrian civilians “will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him killing his own people.”
Russia and Iran are Assad’s main backers, and have provided military support in the complex fight against both rebels and Islamic State militants.
There was no immediate reaction from Syria, Russia or Iran to the White House statement.
The April 4 attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun killed more than 80 people. Analysis by the French government found that sarin gas was used along with a stabilizer known as hexamine, and that the same manufacturing process was used for a 2013 chemical attack attributed to the Syrian government.
Assad has rejected that his forces were responsible for what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, saying the incident was a “fabrication” the United States used to justify a military strike against Syrian forces.
The U.S. strikes hit a Syrian airbase believed to be the source of the chemical weapons.