The campaign in Syria to defeat the Islamic State is unchanged by the U.S. missile strikes against the Assad regime, which should not be seen as a prelude to U.S. participation in the Syrian civil war, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Tuesday.
“Our priority remains the defeat of ISIS,” Mattis said during his first news conference at the Pentagon since taking the helm in January.
He also reiterated his warning from an earlier statement that the Syrian government would be “ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons.”
“If they use chemical weapons, they are going to pay a very, very stiff price,” Mattis said Tuesday.
While the U.S. has been operating against the Islamic State in Syria since 2013, Thursday night’s strikes using 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airfield was the first U.S. operation targeting the Assad regime and, Mattis said, was in direct response to a chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government on April 4.
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