Bolton warns Syria not to use chemical weapons after pullout

Jan. 5 (UPI) — U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, during a trip to Israel, on Saturday warned Syria not to use chemical weapons once the United States removes troops from the country.

Bolton was dispatched to Israel to allay Israeli fears that the removal of roughly 2,000 U.S. troops could lead to chemical attacks or other violence in the Middle East. Bolton is later headed to Turkey to warn officials not to launch an offensive targeting Kurdish fighters in Syria.

“Looking forward to meeting with Israeli senior officials tomorrow to discuss a range of shared priorities between the United States and Israel, including the enduring U.S. commitment to Israel’s security,” Bolton posted on Twitter after arriving in Tel Aviv on Saturday afternoon.

Speaking to reporters on the trip overseas, Bolton said “there is absolutely no change” in the Trump administration’s opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s alleged use of chemical weapons.

He said there are “a lot of options” in the event of another chemical weapons attack like the one that killed dozens in April 2017, saying the next U.S. response would be “more telling” than the last.

Bolton said the chemical attack possibility is not based on new intelligence.

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump announced the total withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Bolton plans to tell Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, that there is no timetable for an American military pullout from Syria.

On Friday night, a senior administration official said there has been no decision on the pace of the departure of American troops from the Syrian base at al-Tanf, near the borders of Iraq and Jordan.

“We will continue to work with partners and allies to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS through sustaining military gains and promoting regional security and stability,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson said.

Bolton plans to discuss possibly maintaining some U.S. forces at a base near the Jordanian border.

Accompanying Bolton on the trip are Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Jim Jeffrey, the new U.S. special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition.

“This visit to Turkey continues the ongoing coordination required to ensure we achieve our security objectives in Syria as we withdraw forces,” Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said in a statement obtained by NBC News.

Secretary of State Micael Pompeo plans to visit eight countries in the Middle East, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, over one week starting Tuesday.

Last month, Pompeo met with Netanyahu in Brazil. The prime minister reiterated his request to phase out a withdrawal from Syria.

On Thursday, Netanyahu said the United States “is acting against Iran at the economic level and we here in Israel are acting against Iran at the military level.”

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