Top U.S. commander says Syria has substantial bioweapon capability

James Mattis

According to the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Syria has a “substantial” capability for biological and chemical weapons and an effort to scale back naval presence in the area could spell trouble.

Marine General James Mattis, the head of U.S. Central Command, said that threats from Iran and other countries in the region require more ships and maritime missile defense capabilities as opposed to fewer. Mattis and Navy Admiral William McRaven testified before the Senate and House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Associated Press reports.

Mattis said that despite the $500 billion worth of Pentagon budget cuts in the next decade, the U.S. must use its special operations and its Navy to maintain a smaller but still strong military presence in the Middle East.

“The stacked Iranian threats…of ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, mines, small boats, cruise missiles and submarines demand stronger naval presence and capability to protect vital sea lines of communication,” Mattis said, according to Associated Press. “(In addition), options available to address the situation (in Syria) are extremely challenging.”

Some members of Congress have called for military action by the U.S. and internationally against the Assad regime to stop the brutal attacks against the Syrian people. Obama’s administration and other leaders around the world have thus far opposed military intervention and have recommended increasing sanctions.

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