US military preparing options for response if Assad uses chemical weapons

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph Dunford said he and the White House maintain a “routine dialogue” about military options for a response to Syria using chemical weapons in an expected assault on Idlib.

Mr Dunford said no final decision has been made about whether use of chemical weapons would trigger a US military response, but made it clear the options are on the table.

“But we are in a dialogue, a routine dialogue, with the president to make sure he knows where we are with regard to planning in the event that chemical weapons are used,” Mr Dunford said.

“He expects us to have military options and we have provided updates to him on the development of those military options.”

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad appears to be preparing for an attack on Idlib, amassing his army and allied forces along the frontlines in the northwest, with Russian planes assisting in the bombardment of the rebel-held province.

The Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected calls from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan for a ceasefire, with Mr Erdogan concerned about the refugees a new offensive will push across the border.

Mr Erdogan expressed concern that an assault on Idlib would push refugees fearing a massacre into Turkey, which is already struggling with a large number of refugees.

“If the world turns a blind eye to the killing of tens of thousands of innocent people to further the regime’s interests, we will neither watch from the sidelines nor participate in such a game,” Mr Erdogan said.

However, Mr Putin said there will be no ceasefire unless leaders from opposition and Islamic terrorist groups are involved in the talks.

“The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table. And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army,” Mr Putin said.

“I think in general the Turkish president is right. It would be good, but I can’t speak for them, and even more so can’t talk for terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS that they will stop shooting or stop using drones with bombs.”

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