According to activists and rescue teams, Assad's government launched an attack with suspected poisonous gas that affected at least 20 civilians in a rebel-held suburb near Damascus, the Associated Press reported.
The area, known as eastern Ghouta, is an enclave of rebel support in a part of the country that Assad has long dominated during the country's near seven-year-old war. It has been under siege by the Assad regime for years now, but despite a ceasefire agreed to over the summer, the regime has starved and bombed the area for the past few months. In recent weeks, that bombing campaign escalated, according to monitoring groups.
The new partnership will unveil a series of commitments "aimed at strengthening their cooperation in the fight against impunity for those who use or develop chemical weapons," according to the French Foreign Ministry, including collecting, sharing. and publicizing information about chemical attack perpetrators.
But less than a week ago in a major policy speech, Tillerson said that the U.S. airstrikes last April on Assad's airbase were meant "to dissuade the Syrian regime from further use or proliferation of chemical weapons." On his flight back to Washington afterwards, he also told ABC News the U.S. and Syria were "very well aligned" in Syria and their end goals there.
"That's why we're disappointed with the Foreign Minister's comments," Goldstein said, a reference to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov today accusing the U.S. of fomenting unrest and instability in Syria and even supporting al Qaeda-linked militants. "The Secretary is very unhappy that Russia has not stepped up to the plate as we would expect them to," Goldstein added.
To critics, Russian intransigence and stalwart support for Assad are a reality that the administration should have seen earlier. "Russia has fooled the U.S. again in Syria," the Washington Post editorial board warned in a recent headline.
Either way, it's unclear how another international group or more public statements from the U.S. will change the situation on the ground, especially as Assad's forces continue to regain territory. As Tillerson said in that speech last week, the regime now controls about half of the country's population and territory, thanks in large part to Russian support.