Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Donald Trump shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron during a meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels. French President Emmanuel Macron has invited U.S. President Donald Trump to Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously
Melinda Barton | 29 June, 2017, 09:09

According to a knowledgeable senior administration official, Tillerson warned his counterpart Sergei Lavrov in a telephone conversation: the US sees that Russian Federation and Syria may be prepping for another chemical weapons attack; and that there will be consequences if Assad follows through with it. You might remember when the US fired dozens of Tomahawk missiles from two American destroyers in the Mediterranean.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said that the U.S. had seen "activity" at Shayrat airfield that showed "active preparations for chemical weapons use". Days later, Trump ordered a cruise missile attack against the base in retaliation.

Russian Federation also warned Washington against further "irresponsible" actions in violation of the UN Charter and generally recognized norms of worldwide law as in the USA missile strike on a Syrian regime air base in response to the Idlib attack.

It's unclear at this point what the USA will do next but here's a bit of backstory. A senior Russian lawmaker accused the USA of a "provocation". In the southern Syrian incidents Washington claimed to be defending USA -allied rebels and their embedded American advisors at Tanf, while in the Tabqah incident the Syrian plane that was shot down was reportedly bombing SDF positions, or near enough to those positions to be considered a threat. Nevertheless, the White House showed it wouldn't turn a blind eye.

Mattis stressed the American military was not going to get drawn into the Syrian civil war, but noted that "if somebody comes after us, bombs us or takes a heading on us or fires on us, then under legitimate self-defense, we'll do whatever we have to do to stop it". They've also twice shot down Iranian-made drones in the same area, on June 8 and June 20.

Asked whether he believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces had called off any such strike completely, Mattis said: "I think you better ask Assad about that".

SHAPIRO: The White House issued this warning late last night in a statement from the press secretary, which does not seem like the usual way these things are done.

Tuesday's statement attempted to add weight to a claim, issued by the White House on Monday, that the Syrian regime was making "potential preparations" for a chemical attack.

The United States says it has detected potential preparations for a chemical attack at Syria's Shayrat airfield, which was used in April to launch a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people in Khan Sheikhoun.

Neither the White House nor the Pentagon have said yet what the US intends to do if the Syrian regime launches another chemical attack.

"We consider all these new insinuations on the topic of weapons of mass destruction - in the worst traditions of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation intervention in 2003 in Iraq - just as an invitation to the terrorists, extremists and armed opposition in Syria to fabricate another large-scale provocation using chemical weapons", the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. The U.S. and its Arab and Western allies, and Syrian opposition groups, accuse Assad's forces of many more instances of using sarin and chlorine against civilians.

Some people are comparing this to former President Barack Obama's famous "red line".

The Pentagon and White House warned that Syria will pay a "heavy price" for another attack.

The announcement comes amid rising tensions in Syria between the US-led coalition and Russian Federation, which is backing the Assad regime.

The United States has taken a series of actions over the past three months demonstrating its willingness to carry out strikes, mostly in self-defence, against Syrian government forces and their backers, including Iran.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 militants were also killed in the airstrike that happened on Monday in the Deir El-Zour province. The coalition couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The Syrian government has been fighting terrorist groups for more than six years, and raising such baseless claims would do nothing but to strengthen the terrorist groups, Qasemi said, adding that any USA move in this regard is "suspicious".

Without more details from the administration it's hard to know what to make of this statement.

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn't appear to have been discussed in advance with other national security agencies.

US and allied intelligence officers had for some time identified several sites where they suspected Assad's government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, said a USA official familiar with the intelligence.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity as he's not authorized to speak to the media.