U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned Syria it would be “very unwise” for its forces to use weaponized gas, as the top American defense official cited unconfirmed reports of chlorine attacks in eastern Ghouta. “It would be very unwise for them to use weaponized gas. And I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration,” US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said.
Secretary Mattis also slammed Russia for supporting Damascus, accusing Moscow of either being incompetent or in cahoots with the Assad regime, with regard to the latest reports of chlorine attacks on rebel-held areas. “Either Russia is incompetent or in cahoots with Assad. There’s an awful lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas,” Mattis said.
In response to the allegations, Russia’s news agencies reported that the Syrian military had found a rebel workshop in Eastern Ghouta, where Islamist militants used to make chemical weapons. The Russian report coincided with a vehement rejection by Damascus, in which it accused Islamist organizations that are linked to Al-Qaeda and operated in the rebel-held stronghold of Eastern Ghouta, of fabricating the use of chemical weapons. “We absolutely deny the existence of any chemical weapons, including chlorine gas that is used to be a weapon.” / “Armed terrorist groups in eastern Ghouta in the Damascus suburbs plan to fabricate a scene of a chemical attack and accuse the Syrian army in Ashari farms between Mesraba and Beit Sawa, where terrorists from Failaq al-Rahman and Ahraral-Sham are located,” Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said.
In the past two years, a joint U.N. and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons inquiry accused the Syrian government of using the nerve agents’ ‘sarin’ and ‘chlorine’ as a weapon on several occasions. The Syrian army and government have consistently denied those allegations during the deadly conflict, now in its seventh year.