US warns Assad, Russia on future chemical attacks
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would be well-advised to avoid conducting any future chemical attacks, Defense Secretary James Mattis warned Tuesday as he downplayed the likelihood of a potential Russian-U.S. conflagration, APA reports quoting Anadolu agency.
Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon the "Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.
"If they use chemical weapons they are going to pay a very, very stiff price," he added.
A senior White House official said earlier Tuesday that the U.S. is now confident Assad's forces did not declare their full chemical weapons stockpile following a chemical attack in 2013 that resulted in international actors requiring Damascus to formally announce and surrender its full collection of chemical weapons.
In response to the latest chemical attack in Syria's Idlib province that killed scores, the U.S. last week fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military air base American officials believe was used to carry out the deadly April 4 attack.
The U.S. strike has frayed relations with Russia, who has warned against additional actions. But Mattis did not believe that the situation in Syria would result in the U.S. and Russia going to blows.
“I am confident the Russians will act in their own best interests, and there’s nothing in their best interests to say they want this situation to go out of control," Mattis said. "We maintain communications with the Russian military, and with the diplomatic channels, it will not spiral out of control."
He said the Pentagon does not have the authority to preemptively strike in Syria to thwart a potential chemical attack.
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