U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Sunday warned the Syrian government not to use chemical weapons in its civil war and said the Trump administration has made it clear that it would be "very unwise" to use gas in attacks.
Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Middle East that he was disturbed by reports of civilian casualties from bombings by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces.
"Right now we're getting reports — I don't have evidence that I can show you — but I'm aware of the reports of chlorine gas use," he said before arriving Sunday in Oman.
The U.S. responded militarily last year to reported Syrian government use of sarin gas, and Mattis was asked whether the administration is now considering retaliating for chlorine gas use.
"I'm not going to strictly define it. We have made it very clear that it would be very unwise to use gas" as a weapon, Mattis said.
He said the latest reports of Syrian government forces killing civilians in eastern Ghouta show that troops are "at best indiscriminately" attacking and "at worst targeting hospitals. I don't know which it is, whether they're incompetent or whether they're committing illegal acts or both."
The Pentagon chief said Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria to support the Assad government, could be complicit in the civilian casualties.
"Either Russia is incompetent or in cahoots with Assad," Mattis said. "There's an awful lot of reports about chlorine gas use or about symptoms that could be resulting from chlorine gas."...