Mattis: Trump’s Warning to Syria Against Using Chemical Weapons Deters Attack

'They took the warning seriously'

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis / Getty Images

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Wednesday that the Trump administration's warning to the Syrian government against using chemical weapons appears to have worked for now.

"They took the warning seriously," Mattis told reporters aboard a flight to Brussels. "They didn't do it."

Mattis said that President Donald Trump's warning on Monday to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad shows how serious the United States takes the threat of a chemical attack in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon said it had seen activity at Shayrat airfield indicating preparations to use chemical weapons. The U.S. previously launched airstrikes against the airfield in April, after Mr. Assad's forces were accused of launching an attack with sarin gas.

Mr. Mattis was also asked if Syrian forces could restart their preparations for a chemical attack. Mr. Mattis said: "You better ask Assad about that." He declined to say how confident he was that Syrian forces wouldn't launch another chemical attack, but said the U.S. would continue to monitor their activity.

"I am not paid to have confidence in this sort of thing," Mattis said. "I am paid to be one of the sentinels, one of the watchers."