En route to Brussels, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that the Syrians are not planning a chemical weapons attack, walking significantly back from statements made earlier in the week by White House press spokesman Sean Spicer. "They didn't do it," Mattis was quoted by the Washington Post. Mattis' face-saving claims that the Trump warnings to Russia and Syria "worked" and that the Syrians no longer planned the chemical weapons attack from Shayrat air base came in the context of growing published skepticism about the veracity of the intelligence, claiming that the U.S. had detected signs of a planned CW attack.
- On June 27, Paul Pillar and Greg Thielmann warned on Defense One that President Trump was "cherry picking" intelligence to justify war on Iran--in a replay of the Bush-Cheney Administration's propaganda campaign to justify the March 2003 Iraq invasion.
- On June 25, Edward Lozansky penned an op-ed in the Washington Times, urging President Trump to get back on track with his campaign pledges to restore U.S.-Russian cooperation: "Why was it right for Reagan to find a common language with Mr. Gorbachev and the then-Communist USSR while any suggestion from Mr. Trump to attempt the same with Vladimir Putin and post-Communist Russia leads to calls for his impeachment?" He went on to write, "Fortunately, not only are the major details of the Reagan-Gorbachev negotiations and deals readily available, but we have among us many members of Reagan's inner circle with whom we can consult: James Baker, Bill Bennett, Pat Buchanan, Chas Freeman, Suzanne Massie, Jack Matlock, Edwin Meese, Dana Rohrabacher, George Shultz, David Stockman... We need their advice about how to resolve this crisis and the time is now."
- And of course, Col. Lang proposed, concretely, that international observers should be posted at Syrian air bases to independently verify that the munitions being used by the Syrian Air Force are conventional weapons, not CW.
- Seymour Hersh published a lengthy account in Die Welt this week (after the London Review of Books refused to publish the piece), based on conversations with U.S. officials, debunking the whole idea that Syria had conducted the CW attack on April. He warned that the U.S. was setting the stage for another "false flag" attack by the jihadists, to be blamed on the Syrian government, to justify deeper U.S. military action against the Assad government forces.
Reports, following the Spicer warnings indicated that the National Security team had not been consulted before the statement was issued.