Mattis warns of Israel-Iran military confrontation in Syria
A military confrontation between Israel and Iran in Syria is becoming increasing likely, US Defence Secretary James Mattis warned on Thursday as his Israeli counterpart was visiting Washington to discuss the threat.
Mr Mattis delivered his warning of yet another military conflict in the Middle East at a hearing in Congress. Asked if Israel and Iran were edging toward military confrontation, he said: “I can see how it might start, but I am not sure when or where.”
“I think that it’s very likely in Syria because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.”
He accused Iran of not only expanding and strengthening its presence in Syria but also “bringing advanced weapons for Hezbollah through Syria”.
Israel, he said “will not wait to see those missiles in the air and we hope Iran would pull back”.
The Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who met US national security adviser John Bolton and Mr Mattis on Thursday, also warned of a confrontation with Iran.
“Any site in which we see an Iranian attempt to achieve a military foothold in Syria will be struck. We won’t let that happen, regardless of the price,” he told the Arabic news website Elaph.
Israel said it carried out air strikes against Iranian and Syrian targets in Syria in February after one its F16 fighter jets was downed near the Syrian border.
US to expand role in Syria – Mattis
“Right now we are not withdrawing,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We are continuing the fight, we are going to expand it and bring in more regional support. This is the biggest shift we’re making right now.”
In his statement, Mattis maintained that the US was not stepping in to take sides in the ongoing conflict in Syria. “No military solution is possible in the Syrian civil war,” Mattis said.
In his testimony, Mattis maintained that the US was not stepping in to take sides in the ongoing Syrian civil war. “No military solution is possible in the Syrian civil war,” Mattis said. “We continue to support a diplomatic solution as part of the UN-led peace process.”
Senate Confirms C.I.A. Chief Mike Pompeo to Be Secretary of State
WASHINGTON — The Senate easily confirmed Mike Pompeo on Thursday as the United States’ 70th secretary of state, elevating the current C.I.A. director and an outspoken foreign policy hawk to be the nation’s top diplomat.
In the end, the 57-to-42 tally lacked the drama of other nail-biting confirmation votes in the Trump era. This week, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, the nominee’s main Republican antagonist, bowed to pressure from President Trump to drop his objections. Ultimately, seven members of the Senate Democratic caucus — five of whom face re-election this year in states that Mr. Trump won in 2016 — joined a united Republican conference to support Mr. Pompeo’s confirmation.
Shortly after the vote at the Capitol, Mr. Pompeo went across the street to the Supreme Court, where he was sworn in by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Mr. Pompeo then dashed to Joint Base Andrews, where a plane was waiting to fly him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO allies. Senior staff on the plane greeted him with applause.
Over the next three days, he will also travel to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Jerusalem; and Amman, Jordan. Rex W. Tillerson, Mr. Pompeo’s predecessor, never went to Jerusalem out of deference to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, whose portfolio included an effort to negotiate a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Pompeo’s agenda is already packed, with crucial deadlines in the coming weeks involving Russia, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela. And he must face these challenges while trying to repair a State Department damaged under the tenure of Mr. Tillerson and the crucial alliances frayed during the Trump presidency.