The US military has seen no new activity near the chemical weapons installations at the Shayrat Airbase in Syria in the last 24 hours, two US officials told CNN.
Two US military officials had previously told CNN Wednesday that Russians visited the Shayrat airbase on Tuesday. One of the officials said the US military thinks it is “highly likely” that the Russians inspected a one-time chemical weapons shelter.
The officials told CNN Thursday that following the Russian inspection of the airfield, the Syrian regime has “dispersed” its aircraft based at Shayrat.
The regime forces have moved some their aircraft to other airbases and spread others around the airfield, away from the chemical weapons bunkers and away from other aircraft, the officials said, based on the latest imagery seen by the US. The Assad regime had similarly dispersed its aircraft following the April US cruise missile strike against the airfield which was launched in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack by regime aircraft.
“The Russians appeared to have been helpful on this one,” one of the officials said.
Several defense officials had told CNN Wednesday that Syria’s Shayrat airbase remained under constant overhead surveillance by the US for further signs of whether a chemical strike may be in the works.
The US had earlier observed the movement of an aircraft and chemical agents on the base that indicated possible preparation for an attack, leading the White House to issue a public warning late Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would pay a heavy price for using chemical weapons.
Earlier Wednesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he believed Syria has backed down in the face of the White House’s warning.
“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mattis told reporters during a trip to Brussels for a NATO meeting. “They didn’t do it.”
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told Congress Wednesday that Trump’s warning stopped the Assad regime.
“I can tell you that due to the President’s actions, we did not see an incident,” Haley said at a House foreign affairs committee hearing. “I would like to think that the President saved many innocent men, women and children.”. Continue reading.