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Mattis on Middle East Tour Issues Provocations Against Syria, Iran

April 21, 2017 (EIRNS)—Secretary of Defense James Mattis, on a tour of the Middle East that has already taken him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel and that will wrap up in Qatar and Djibouti, has been issuing provocative statements about Iran and Syria. In Riyadh, both he and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohamed bin Salman talked about containing Iran’s "mischief." During one availability with the news media in Riyadh, Mattis was asked about pushing a peace deal for Yemen and how close the Saudis were to thinking that way. Mattis replied that the problem isn’t the Saudis but the Iranians. "

[W]e watch Iran’s impact across the region from the militia they maintain, Lebanese Hezbollah that they support in Lebanon. That militia is also contributing thousands of fighters. And of course, Iran’s got its own military inside Syria, continuing to hold Assad in power. Everywhere you look, if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran,"

he said.

"So right now, what we’re seeing is the nations in the region and others elsewhere trying to checkmate Iran and the amount of disruption, the amount of instability they can cause."

Earlier, Mattis had claimed that Yemen’s Houthi rebels are firing "Iranian-supplied missiles" into Saudi Arabia.

Upon arriving in Tel Aviv, Mattis claimed that the Syrian government of Bashar al Assad had retained some amount of its chemical weapons arsenal. "The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some [chemical weapons]," he claimed. "It’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically." Just the day before, a senior Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that "a few tons of chemical weapons" remained in the hands of Assad’s forces. This is not a new position stated by the Israelis, but may have been issued to help state the stage for Mattis’ visit. On April 6, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that he was "100 percent certain" that the supposed chemical weapons attack was "directly ordered and planned by Assad," though he failed to explain how he reached that conclusion.