US Defense Secretary General James Mattis has arrived in Israel for talks expected to focus on Iran and Syria as well the strategic relations between Tel Aviv and Washington.
Mattis arrived in Tel Aviv Thursday afternoon from Cairo on the third leg of a week-long tour of the US allies in the Middle East.
Marking the first time he has visited Israel as the Pentagon chief, Mattis was greeted by an official honor guard at army headquarters in Tel Aviv on Friday morning.
He then met the Israeli minister for military affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin.
Mattis hopes to hear directly from Israeli leaders their concerns about regional issues, with Iran’s influence topping the list.
‘No doubt Syria has chemical weapons’
The conflict in Syria, where the US and Israel seek to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power, is also on the agenda, according to the prime minister’s office.
Israel was one of the first US allies to salute President Donald Trump for a recent missile strike on a Syrian airbase, where they alleged a suspected chemical attack originated.
Speaking during a press conference with Lieberman on Friday, Mattis said there can be “no doubt” that Syria has retained some chemical weapons and warned President Assad not to use them.
“There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt,” he said.
The US, Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing to overthrow the Syrian government through the use of proxy militant forces in the country.
Iran has been lending advisory support to Syria in its battle against the foreign-backed militants, but has avoided direct military involvement in the conflict.
Known as the “Mad Dog,” Mattis has famously said the three gravest threats to US national security were “Iran, Iran, Iran.”
While in Riyadh on Wednesday, the Pentagon chief reiterated the Trump administration’s position that Iran seeks to “destabilize” the region.
He told reporters after meeting with senior Saudi officials that “everywhere you look if there is trouble in the region, you find Iran.”
US-Israeli ties reached a low point over the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, including the United States.
Former President Barack Obama pushed for the agreement, to the dismay of Netanyahu who argued it would only strengthen Iran in the region.
Israeli leaders were emboldened by the election of Donald Trump, who has described the nuclear accord as “the worst deal ever negotiated” and threatened to “rip it up.”
In his latest criticism on Thursday, Trump blasted the deal as “a terrible agreement” that “shouldn’t have been signed,” and accused Iran of “not living up” to its spirit.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says the West seeks to prevent any impartial investigation into the recent suspected chemical attack in the country as any such probe will reveal that the incident was just another “false flag” scenario.
“We formally sent a letter to the United Nations. We asked them in that letter to send a delegation in order to investigate what happened in Khan Shaykhun,” Assad said in a Thursday interview with the Russian Sputnik news agency.
“Of course till this moment they did not send [a response], because the West and the United States blocked any delegation from coming, because if they come, they will find that all their narratives about what happened in Khan Shaykhun and then the attack on Shayrat airport was a false flag, was a lie,” Assad stressed.
Over 80 people died in the April 4 purported gas attack on the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib Province, which the Western countries blamed on the Syrian government.
Using the incident as a pretext, US warships fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea at the Shayrat airfield in Syria’s central province of Homs on April 7. US officials claimed that the suspected Khan Shaykhun gas attack had been launched from the military site.
Assad described the chemical incident as “a false flag play just to justify the attack on the Shayrat base.”
He noted that the Syrian army launched an attack in Idlib Province on April 4 at 11:30 a.m. local time, while the suspected chemical incident is reported to have happened at 6:30 a.m.
“We did not launch any attack at that time,” Assad pointed out.
Assad cast doubt on the authenticity of the images and videos attributed to the scene of the suspected chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun.
“Even if you look at the pictures, you can see that the rescuers — presumable rescuers — were rescuing people without masks, without gloves, and they were moving freely. How? This is against all the specifications of the sarin gas that they talked about,” Assad said.
“You can fake this image, it is very easy. So, you cannot just base your judgment on images and videos, especially made by al-Qaeda,” he added.
‘West against full-fledged probe’
On Thursday, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, Mikhail Ulyanov, lashed out at the US and the West over their efforts to prevent an impartial probe into the Khan Shaykhun incident.
Ulyanov made the remarks after the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted against a proposal by Iran and Russia for a probe into the incident.
“Frankly speaking, we expected exactly this result,” he said.
“The conclusion is one — for us this behavior of Western colleagues is tantamount to the acknowledgment that they understand [that] the Syrians did not use chemical weapons. So, their main task is to hinder… a full-fledged investigation, as it can reveal the truth, which would be extremely unpleasant for them,” Ulyanov said.
Iran and Russia’s call for disarming terrorist groups in Syria comes as the Daesh Takfiri terror group has launched several chemical attacks in Syria over the past years.
The Syrian government turned over its entire chemical stockpile under a deal negotiated by Russia and the United States back in 2013.
The Syrian stockpile of chemical weapons was surrendered in a joint mission comprising representatives of the UN and the OPCW in 2014.
Bill Gates warns terrorists could weaponize smallpox
… from Russia Today, Moscow
[ Editor’s Note: This is an interesting story in that with no specific threat Gates is taking the stage to get this warning out. But there is a major boomerang possibility in doing so. First, extremists who had not given this much serious consideration due to its uncontrollably in terms of victim selection, might get this on their “to do” list because Gates has publicized that it is doable.
And second, the first place the jihadis would go to for assistance is to some of their more radical state sponsors. This “support connection” is already in progress with the arms that state sponsors have been flowing into the Syrian war to keep it going. And they have been using gas from the two facilities under opposition control when Assad turned his ten facilities over in 2013.
And then there is psyop-false flag industry, and I use that term not to exaggerate because it is that big, that will now have Bill Gates prediction to set up a variety of major Intel orgs, or Deep State rouge operatives who have long felt that the world could use a good one billion “cleansing”, to realize they could get two bangs for the buck by setting up some patsy group to take the fall for such an attack.
The bogus Syrian gas attack is the latest example of how easily something was blamed on Assad with literally no proof put on the table, yet a major missile attacked was launched.
So this worries me a great deal. We here at VT are highly sensitized to anything that looks like preparing people for a future event to acclimatize them to the thought of it happening. We have seen it done over and over.
Color me suspicious, but I do agree with Gates that the world in general has to be pro-active for such events. What I disagree with completely is no mention of that preparation including spilling the history of these diseases already having been prepared to use by state actors, with nary a word of condemnation, even from someone as insulated as Gates… Jim W. Dean ]
This includes research, needed field trips, Heritage TV Legacy archiving, and more – Thanks for helping out
– First published … April 20, 2017 –
Gates, who delivered his chilling warning ahead of a speech at the Royal United Services Institute in London (RUSI), said the world should not underestimate the potential threat of lethal respiratory viruses, as they are becoming easier to re-create and spread.
“We ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril,” he said. “The next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus… or a super contagious and deadly strain of the flu,” he added.
Gates, a philanthropist who has spent the last 20 years funding a global health campaign, said that epidemiologists claim there is a “reasonable probability” of an epidemic outbreak occurring in the next 10 to 15 years.
Security specialists have raised concerns over the growing possibility of bioterrorist attacks, as advances in molecular biology have made biological weapons more accessible, particularly in the past five years.
Although British and US intelligence services have warned that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has been trying to make biological weapons in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq, they have downplayed the threat, as they don’t think the terrorist group has people with the skills necessary to create them and doubt such arms could be produced in a war-zone.
Nonetheless, Gates said the threat of a pandemic must be taken seriously.
“It’s hard to get your mind around a catastrophe of that scale, but it happened not that long ago. “In 1918, a particularly virulent and deadly strain of flu killed between 50 million and 100 million people. “You might be wondering how real these doomsday scenarios really are.
“The fact that a deadly global pandemic has not occurred in recent history shouldn’t be mistaken for evidence that a deadly pandemic will not occur in the future.
“And even if the next pandemic isn’t on the scale of the 1918 flu, we would be wise to consider the social and economic turmoil that might ensue if something like ebola made its way into urban centers,” he said.
Gates then recommended that the world put as much effort into preparing for an outbreak of viruses as it does into preventing nuclear attacks or climate change.
“Getting ready for a global pandemic is every bit as important as nuclear deterrence and avoiding a climate catastrophe. “Innovation, cooperation and careful planning can dramatically mitigate the risks presented by each of these threats,” he said.
Gates then outlined possible preparations that governments could make.
“This includes germ games and other preparedness exercises, so we can better understand how diseases will spread, how people will respond in a panic, and how to deal with things like overloaded highways and communications systems,” he said.
His warning follows the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s release of an Ipsos Mori poll that shows 71 percent of Britons aged 16 to 75 are less concerned about war than the spread of deadly diseases.