State Dept claims US has proof Damascus was behind Douma 'attack,' but it's classified
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said on Friday that the US has "a very high level of confidence" that it was the Syrian government that launched an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma on April 7. Asked by AP's Matt Lee if the US can say that it has clear evidence of the Syrian government's culpability, Nauert responded that while she cannot speak for other nations, "it's the assessment of the British government, the US government, the French government" that Syria was the culprit.
"I cannot speak on their behalf, but we've all have been having conversations and sharing information, intelligence included, and we can say that the Syrian government was behind the attack," Nauert said. The US assertion relies on "different kind of sources," including those of its own, she said.
It's unclear if the strongest-worded attribution of blame by the US so far is based on some newly uncovered evidence. Pressed on whether Washington had obtained some new proof that explicitly points at Damascus' role in the incident, Nauert did not provide any new details, saying that she is not in a position to divulge the intelligence data.
She went on to criticize "some TV shows" that are calling on the White House to offer some facts in support of the accusations: "a lot of this stuff is classified at this point. We are unable to provide all of this publicly at this moment," she said.
At the same time, Nauert admitted that the US has, so far, failed to independently determine what substance was used in the alleged chemical attack.
"On Tuesday, when we last met, I talked how we know that it was a chemical weapon that was used in Syria. The exact kind or the mix of that [chemical weapon] we are still looking into."
At a briefing on Tuesday, Nauert said: "we do know that some sort of a substance was used."
She also dismissed the statement by the Russian Defense Ministry that the UK government could have pressured the rebel-linked White Helmets group, which was the primary source of the photos and videos from the site of the supposed attack, to stage a provocation in Douma.
On Thursday, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said that Moscow has "evidence that Britain had a direct involvement in arranging this provocation in Eastern Ghouta." The UK rebuffed the accusations, calling them "grotesque."
Nauert echoed an earlier statement by White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said on Friday that Washington has "a very high confidence that Syria was responsible," while accusing Russia of a "failure" to head off the alleged attack.