The U.S. Secretary of Defense says the Syrian military appears to have called off a chemical weapons attack, after the White House reported earlier this week that Syrian forces were preparing for one. Matthew Larotonda reports.
The U.S. Secretary of Defense says the Syrian government appears to have called off an impending chemical weapons attack. The White House warning earlier this week that it believed Syrian forces were preparing for such a strike, and would "pay a heavy price" if they carried it out. Now, James Mattis, speaking to reporters on a flight to NATO's Brussels headquarters, said the Syrians seem to have taken the warning "seriously" but couldn't say whether their preparations were completely halted or just postponed. He offered no evidence except that an attack hadn't been carried out. And one U.S. government source said the intelligence that led to the warning was far from conclusive. But a seperate official told Reuters the incident has focused on the same Syrian airbase struck by American cruise missiles last April, retaliation for what Washington says was a poison gas attack that killed 70 people that month in rebel territory. Damascus denied involvement. Russia, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said any preemptive measures against Syrian forces would be responded to proportionately. The latest dispute coming two weeks after the U.S. shot down a Syrian warplane, prompting Russia to take a more aggressive posture toward American aircraft. Washington said the jet had bombed fighters on the ground allied to the United States.