Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Shamkhani pointed to a unilateral move by the U.S. to attack Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles back in April after White House claims on a suspected chemical attack in Idlib Province, Syria.

A Free Syrian Army fighter loads a US -made M2 Browning heavy machine gun in northern Aleppo in November 2016. The U.S. now has more than 5,000 troops in Iraq and about 1,000 in Syria.

"It appears that they took the warning seriously", Mattis told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis briefs the press prior to a commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan at the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, Wednesday, June 28, 2017.

Assad, backed by his ally Russian Federation, has strongly denied the allegation that his forces used chemical weapons against the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun, describing it as a "100% fabrication".

That is the same base from which the Syrian air force launched an attack in April that the US and others said used lethal chemicals to kill civilians. Nevertheless, the White House showed it wouldn't turn a blind eye.

Trump, despite authorizing strikes earlier this year, has been inconsistent on Syria. Last week, a US aircraft shot down a Syrian government jet that had bombed USA -backed fighters fighting the Islamic State in the militants' de facto capital, Raqqa. It has twice downed Iranian drones.

The White House issued a surprise statement Monday night that threatened President Bashar Assad's government with "a heavy price" if it used chemical weapons.

US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Tuesday the Trump administration issued a warning to Syria over a possible chemical weapons attack after seeing preparations similar to activities before an attack in April. Hours later, the Pentagon elaborated without offering many specifics.

The United States warned Syria's leadership against staging a chemical weapons attack after Washington detected what appeared to be active preparations at a Syrian airfield used for such an attack in April, US officials said on Tuesday.

"They didn't do it", Mattis said.

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"Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people", she wrote.

Defence Minister Fikri Isik said the Pentagon chief had promised to take back the heavy arms and vehicles the United States had provided to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) once the Isis stronghold of Raqqa is captured.

He advised former President Barack Obama - over Twitter - to "not attack Syria" after a 2013 chemical attack and has slammed his predecessor for not observing the red line he set before the attack.

The Syrian government, as well as Russian authorities, have denied any allegations against them, with Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying that "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable". USA officials say Assad never fulfilled the demand of Obama's deal with Russian Federation, keeping control of some stockpiles.

Underscoring the messiness of Syria's crowded battlefield, a Britain-based human-rights group Tuesday accused the USA -led coalition of striking an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria, killing more than 40 prisoners. The strike also reportedly killed IS militants, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The coalition could not immediately be reached for comment.

When asked how he knew Trump's warning had worked, Mattis said: "They didn't do it", a reference to the fact no chemical strike had occurred since Monday.

Nikki Haley says the goal was not to just send Assad a message.

The United States launched a cruise missile strike on Shayrat in April following the deaths of 87 people in what Washington said was a poison gas attack in rebel-held territory.

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning.

The State Department officials weren't authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

On Tuesday, deputy White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "all relevant agencies. were involved in the process from the beginning".

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