White House Accuses Russia of Covering Up Syria Chemical Attack With 'False Narratives'

U.S. intelligence confirms that the Syrian regime used sarin gas on civilians, declassified report says, accusing the Syrian and Russian governments of seeking to confuse the international community with disinformation

A screen grab from a video provided on April 4, 2017, by the Qasioun News Agency showing a doctor treating a boy following a suspected chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria.

The White House is accusing Russia of taking part in a cover-up of the chemical weapons attack in Syria last week.

According to a declassified report released Tuesday, U.S. intelligence confirms that the Syrian regime used sarin gas on civilians, and that the Syrian and Russian governments are seeking to confuse the international community by disseminating "false narratives."

The report emerged as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow for what is increasingly being billed as the most important political meeting to take place in Russia this year.

“The United States is confident that the Syrian regime conducted a chemical weapons attack, using the nerve agent sarin, against its own people in the town of Khan Shaykhun in southern Idlib Province on April 4, 2017,” the document says.

"The attack resulted in at least 50 and up to 100 fatalities (including many children), with hundreds of additional injuries,” the report says.

Regarding a motive, the report says: “We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in northern Hamah Province that threatened key infrastructure.

"Senior regime military leaders were probably involved in planning the attack,” it charges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a press conference in Moscow on April 11, 2017.
Sergei Chirikov, AFP

In the document, the White House accuses Russia of muddling the facts in order to confuse the international community and deflect blame from Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.

"The Syrian regime and its primary backer, Russia, have sought to confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people in this and earlier attacks," the report says.

Russia "spins out multiple, conflicting accounts in order to create confusion and sow doubt within the international community," the document charges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier Tuesday that Moscow had information that the United States was planning to launch new missile strikes on Syria, and Assad was framed for the chemical attack.

Putin, standing alongside Italian President Sergio Mattarella who was in Moscow for talks, said Russia would tolerate Western criticism of its role in Syria but hoped that attitudes would eventually soften.

When asked whether he expected more U.S. missile strikes on Syria, he said:

"We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared ... in other parts of Syria including in the southern Damascus suburbs where they are planning to again plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using [chemical weapons]."

He did not offer any proof for that assertion.

The Russian military also said Tuesday that Syrian militants are preparing to use chemical weapons and blame the Syrian government for the attacks in order to provoke more U.S. strikes.