The Associated Press reports: The United States has concluded Russia knew in advance of Syria’s chemical weapons attack last week, a senior U.S. official said Monday.
The official said a drone operated by Russians was flying over a hospital as victims of the attack were rushing to get treatment. Hours after the drone left, a Russian-made fighter jet bombed the hospital in what American officials believe was an attempt to cover up the usage of chemical weapons.
The senior official said the U.S. has no proof of Russian involvement in the actual chemical attack in northern Syria.
But the official said the presence of the surveillance drone over the hospital couldn’t have been a coincidence, and that Russia must have known the chemical weapons attack was coming and that victims were seeking treatment.
The official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters and demanded anonymity, didn’t give precise timing for when the drone was in the area, where more than 80 people were killed. The official also didn’t provide details for the military and intelligence information that form the basis of what the Pentagon now believes.
Another U.S. official cautioned that no final American determination has been made that Russia knew ahead of time that chemical weapons would be used. That official wasn’t authorized to speak about internal administration deliberations and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The allegation of Russian foreknowledge is grave, even by the standards of the currently dismal U.S.-Russian relations.
Although Russia has steadfastly supported Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, and they’ve coordinated military attacks together, Washington has never previously accused Moscow of complicity in any attack that involved the gassing of innocent civilians, including children. The former Cold War foes even worked together in 2013 to remove and destroy more than 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapons and agents.
Until Monday, U.S. officials had said they weren’t sure whether Russia or Syria operated the drone. The official said the U.S. is now convinced Russia controlled the drone. The official said it still isn’t clear who was flying the jet that bombed the hospital, because the Syrians also fly Russian-made aircraft. [Continue reading…]