Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday that the United States has determined that the Syrian government did use chlorine gas in an attack on its own citizens in May.
What's the context?
Syria has been embroiled in a civil war since March 2011. Rebel forces inside the country had hoped to oust dictator Bashar al-Assad. But as the years passed, Assad regained his control.
In his efforts to quash the rebellion, Assad has repeatedly used chemical weapons against his own civilians. According to a March 2018 report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at that point in the war 511,000 Syrian people had been killed — 85 percent of which were civilians killed by Assad's regime.
What did Pompeo say?
In his speech before the General Assembly, Pompeo said:
I'm announcing that the United States has concluded that the Assad regime used chlorine as a chemical weapon on May 19th in an attack at Latakia province, Syria. This attack was part of the Assad regime's ongoing violent campaign in Idlib, which has killed more than 1,000 innocent Syrians and displaced hundreds of thousands more.
Pompeo added that this was only one "instance in a long pattern of Assad's chemical weapons attacks that have killed or wounded thousands of Syrians."
He said that Assad and had "used chemical weapons every year since Syria's accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention in 2013."
He called the Assad regime "truly barbaric" and promised that "the United States is taking new steps to hold it accountable."
In answer to a question after he had finished speaking, Pompeo elaborated that his team was "careful to make sure we get the data right before we announce conclusions about that." He said they were "now very confident that the intelligence community and all the data that we've seen support the conclusion that we just reached there."