Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee this week, and he had fierce words regarding the U.S.’ current affairs in the Middle East and its stance on the growing conflict in Syria.
“It’s got to end, and our strategy remains the same as a year ago. It is to drive this to a U.N. brokered peace, but at the same time, keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it,” Mattis said during the meeting, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
On the idea that the U.S. might become more involved with the Syrian civil war, Mattis stated: “We are not going to engage in the civil war itself,” and confirmed that the main concern with this Administration “is the defeat of ISIS.”
Mattis did take a moment to speak on Syria’s use of chemical weapons and the U.S.’ missile strike last April in response to last year’s chemical attack, following the suspected chemical attack this past weekend.
“Now you can look back to a year ago when we did fire missiles into Syria unrelated to ISIS, and that was of course the use of chemical weapons. And some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale, and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention, but of civilization itself,” Mattis said.
Mattis was also quick to criticize the Obama Administration’s collaborative efforts with Russia, which was originally supposed to lead to the removal of chemical weapons from Syria. Now, Mattis said, Russia is “complicit” in helping the regime retain them.
“The only reason Assad is still in power is because of the Russians regrettable vetos in the [United Nations] and the Russian and Iranian military. So how do we deal with this very complex situation,” Mattis said. “First of all, we are committed to ending that war through the Geneva process through the U.N.-orchestrated effort. It has been unfulfilled because again Russia has continually blocked the effort.”
After the most recent suspected chemical attack in Syria, President Trump initially tweeted that “missiles are coming,” and told the public that they could expect a decision on Syria within 24 to 48 hours. Several days have since gone by.
Later, Trump tweeted: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS Where is our ‘Thank you America?'”
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
The recent attack killed dozens of children and families near Damascus in Syria, and is believed to have been carried out under the direction of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia supports and backs Assad, and often sides with the country and its president.