Monday evening the administration issued a warning to Syria. In essence, it said ‘we know you are planning a chemical strike and it will be painful if you carry through on that idea.’ Now, Secretary of Defense James Mattis has said that not only was the evidence real but the attack was cancelled because of the warning. (This is the same Mattis who BuzzFeed was claiming was blindsided by the warning to Syria.)
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday that the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad appeared so far to have heeded a warning this week from Washington not to carry out a chemical weapons attack.
Russia, the Syrian government’s main backer in the country’s civil war, warned that it would respond proportionately if the United States took pre-emptive measures against Syrian forces to stop what the White House says could be a planned chemical attack.
The White House said on Monday it appeared the Syrian military was preparing to conduct a chemical weapons attack and said that Assad and his forces would “pay a heavy price” if it did so.
The warning was based on intelligence that indicated preparations for such a strike were under way at Syria’s Shayrat airfield, U.S. officials said.
“It appears that they took the warning seriously,” Mattis said. “They didn’t do it,” he told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.
He offered no evidence other than the fact that an attack had not taken place.
Asked whether he believed Assad’s forces had called off any such strike completely, Mattis said: “I think you better ask Assad about that.”
But naturally there are the unnamed backbiters who could have done a better job:
The intelligence that prompted the administration’s warning to Syria this week was “far from conclusive,” said a U.S. official familiar with it. “It did not come close to saying that a chemical weapons attack was coming,” the official said.
Whoever said this is someone who should be hunted down and shot along with his pet gerbil. What kind of self-serving and disloyal f*** says such a thing? If you really believe it, resign and go public with your charge of duplicity and match your record and your integrity with Mattis.
Mattis said Syria’s chemical weapons threat was larger than any single location. “I think that Assad’s chemical program goes far beyond one airfield,” he said.
U.S. 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, another U.S. official familiar with the intelligence said.
We will never know for sure if Assad was planning another chemical attack. But you can bet that national intelligence resources have been dedicated to identifying the indicators we retrospectively identified as predicting the April attack. The administration had a choice of doing nothing and being dragged into the real possibility of a military conflict with Russian forces or to make a warning and try to freeze things. They made the right call and if Mattis was convinced the Syrians were going to launch a strike, and sufficiently convinced to make this announcement, then I believe him.