Published: Wed, June 28, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

White House spokesman Sean Spicer warned Monday night that if "Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price".

Russia, Assad's main worldwide backer, has denounced the warning and dismissed White House assertions that a strike was being prepared as "unacceptable", raising the tension between Washington and Moscow over the Syrian civil war.

Her remarks come about 12 hours after the White House said it had identified "potential preparations" for another chemical weapons attack by Syria.

But Russia, the Syrian government's main backer, said the US assertions that Assad's forces may have been planning a chemical attack complicated peace talks on ending Syria's six-year-old civil war. Syria denied the charge.

But Russia, which is President Bashar al-Assad's main backer in Syria's six-year-old civil war and has used its veto power on the United Nations Security Council several times to shield his government, challenged the USA intelligence.

Washington s warning to Damascus - which prompted criticism from regime allies Russian Federation and Iran - coincided with a wave of US-led coalition air strikes that killed almost 60 people at a Syrian prison run by the Islamic State group.

"We are saying, 'We see you, ' " the official said. "My hope is that the president's warning will certainly get Iran and Russian Federation to take a second look, and I hope that it will caution Assad".

Assad's government rejected the allegations.

"The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack". Several days later the USA responded by firing 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the Mediterranean Sea-based destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross.

The White House's declaration on Syria comes as the administration grapples with a beleaguered agenda, including the possible collapse of their health care reform and the continuing pall of a special counsel's investigation into Russia's involvement in 2016 election meddling.

US President Donald Trump's warning to the Syrian government not to carry out a chemical weapons attack appears to have worked, American Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Wednesday.

The White House threat caught many in Trump's administration by surprise.

He did not say how the United States collected its intelligence.

During an interview on CNN's "Erin Burnett Outfront", Deputy Assistant to the President Sebastian Gorka said he was unable to discuss the specific intelligence that prompted the warning or what a "heavy price" might mean. "Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false".

Asked if Russia had warned the United States administration against any unilateral action in Syria, Russia's deputy foreign minister, Gennady Gatilov, replied that Russian officials have "always spoken about that, including in relation to their [US] latest strikes on Syrian armed forces".

A senior Russian lawmaker dismissed the USA warning as "provocation".

Syria has denied using banned weapons in the past and that any such preparations were now taking place.

Mr Mattis claimed yesterday that the United States has made it clear all along "we're going to equip them for the fight".

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