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White House Warns That Assad Will “Pay a Heavy Price” for Another Chemical Attack

The White House warned the Syrian regime on Monday that if it carried out another chemical weapons attack against civilians, it would “pay a heavy price.”

“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” the administration said in a statement.

While noting that the U.S. is in Syria to eliminate ISIS, the White House warned that if “Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday that active preparations for a chemical weapons attack seemed to be underway at the Shayrat air base, The New York Times reported. The same base was used by the Assad regime in April to launch a sarin gas attack on the town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province, killing 87 civilians. The U.S. fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at Shayrat following the attack.

A Defense Department source told the Times said that an aircraft shelter at Shayrat that was previously struck by the U.S. was being used in the preparations.

“The Department of Defense remains focused on operations to defeat ISIS,” Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway, a Defense Department spokesman, said in a statement. “Nevertheless, the continued brutality of the Assad regime and his use of chemical weapons presents a clear threat to regional stability and security, as well as the national security interests of the United States and our allies.”

“What is at stake is the future of the nonproliferation regime,” said François Delattre, the French ambassador to the United Nations. “So any weakness on this would open the Pandora’s box and leave the nonproliferation architecture as a whole weakened and threatened. This is something we can’t afford.”

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were reportedly present at Shayrat before April’s sarin gas attack, raising questions about Iran’s involvement in Syria chemical weapons program.

In August 2013, the Assad regime also used sarin in the rebel-held suburbs of Damascus, killing 1,429 people, including 426 children, according to U.S. intelligence.

[Photo: ABC News / YouTube ]