Defense Secretary Jim Mattis listens to a question about Russia from the media at the Pentagon, Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, in Washington. Senior American and Russian military leaders met for an unprecedented, face-to-face session somewhere in the Middle East this week to discuss the growing tensions in the competing battles to retake one of the remaining Islamic State strongholds in Syria. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
There are rumors coming out of Syria indicating that the Assad regime may be up to its old tricks: using sarin gas on civilians. This sarin would be from the same stocks that the Obama regime declared had been eliminated in August 2014.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Friday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted if the U.S. finds hard evidence to back up the claims, the response could be another U.S. military strike.
In April of last year, the U.S. launched a volley of cruise missiles against a Syrian airfield after confirming nerve gas use against civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun.
“We’re on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical convention,” Mattis said.
Multiple reports claim that Syria continues to use chlorine gas as a weapon. Mattis said the U.S. is looking into reports that deadly nerve agents that Syria claims it eliminated in 2013 have shown up in attacks against opposition forces and civilians.
“We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use, the likelihood of sarin use, and we are looking for the evidence,” Mattis said, being careful to say the reports are still unconfirmed.
“I don’t have the evidence. What I’m saying is groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground said that sarin has been used. So we are looking for evidence. I don’t have evidence.”
Given that removal of Assad is an integral part of the administration’s Syria strategy, I think we should view Mattis’s statement as more of a foreshadowing than a “gee whiz, we don’t know” statement.