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Remarks By Secretary Mattis at an Enhanced Honor Cordon Welcoming Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, Emir of Qatar, to the Pentagon

April 9, 2018
Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE JAMES N. MATTIS:  Your Highness, Ambassador, and Ministers, members of the delegation, welcome to the Pentagon.  It's a pleasure to have you here today, and welcome back to Washington, in your case, Your Highness.

It's a pleasure to meet you after meeting with Ministers al-Thani and al-Attiyah during the inaugural U.S.-Qatar strategic dialogue that was hosted by our State Department, represented here today by the ambassador.

And I would just tell you, there's not a glimmer of daylight between State and Defense positions here.  So we are -- we are locked at the hip here in our approach to the situation that you face in the region, that we all face in the region, as you mentioned on our walk on the stairs.

SHEIKH TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL-THANI:  All right, thank you.

SEC. MATTIS:  I think the strategic dialogue served as an expression of our long-standing relationship with Qatar, and, certainly, you recognize that we see a valued military partner and a longtime friend in the region.

I look forward to building on that momentum here today, as we discuss the opportunities for deepening our cooperation for the future.  So I do want to highlight Qatar's longstanding support of America's commitment to regional security, to include information sharing and counterterrorism efforts.

Your continued -- excuse me -- your continued hospitality at Al Udeid Air Base, which is home to U.S. Combined Air Operations Center, as well as the forward headquarters for U.S. Central Command, provides critical support to the Defeat ISIS coalition and NATO's Afghan campaign.

We're grateful for Qatar's significant investment in our CAOC center and offer to expand (inaudible) facilities at the base.  We don't take this relationship for granted, and we appreciate what you do.

With this spirit of collaboration, we intend to continue working together for stability and security in the turbulent Middle East.  And that teamwork bolsters our effectiveness on many fronts, and particularly on counter -- countering terrorism and defeating ISIS, plus countering the spread of Iran's malign influence in the region.

Your Highness, as you said here in Washington, in Georgetown University in 2015, "Hope is the most important thing that we should give to our youth."  And, today, I look forward to discussing ways to further enhance our countries' relationship to ensure we turn our hope of a stable and secure region into a reality for future generations.

And again, Your Highness, Excellencies, gentlemen, welcome to you, back to the Pentagon.  Thank you.

SHEIKH TAMIM:  Thank you.

Thank you very -- very much, General Mattis.  First of all, thank you very much for hosting me here in the Pentagon.  I'm very happy to be visiting Washington and to be starting with the Pentagon.  So it shows how strong relationship are between both countries, and also between armed forces between both countries.  And also, on behalf of my delegation, I would like to thank you for hosting me here in D.C.

You mentioned the strong relationship between both countries.  We're very proud of it, and we had a very successful strategic dialogue a few months ago between both ministers from secretary -- you, sir, and also secretary of State, and, from our side, secretary -- minister of foreign affairs and also minister of defense.  So it was a very successful meeting.

As we are all happy and proud that our relationship is expanding and getting even closer and closer, we are working very closely with each other, especially countering terrorism.  We host more than 10,000 of your men and women in -- in Qatar, and work side-by-side in countering terrorism.  And we're looking also forward on ways how to expand this relationship.

So thank you very much for hosting me.  I had a very successful visit to Tampa.  It was very good to see our people work side by side, and we're very proud of them.

So thank you very much, General Mattis, for hosting me, and I'm sure that this meeting will be very productive.  Thank you, sir.

SEC. MATTIS:  And Qatar will -- especially in light of your recent assumption of more responsibilities in support of the NATO campaign in Afghanistan, where your C-17s are now helping to keep the NATO effort logistically supported.  So thank you for that, as well, Your Highness.

And, ladies and gentlemen of the press, if you'll excuse us, we'll get down to work.  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, is the U.S. capable of striking Assad's chemical weapons facilities?

SEC. MATTIS:  Say that again?

Q:  Is the U.S. capable of striking Assad's chemical weapons facilities?

SEC. MATTIS:  Now, the first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all, when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all the chemical weapons.  And so, working with our allies and partners, from NATO, to Qatar and elsewhere, we are going to address this issue.

Q:  Can you rule out taking actions, launching airstrikes against Assad, Mr. Secretary?

SEC. MATTIS:  I don't rule out anything right now.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.

Q:  Mr. Secretary, can you confirm there was a chemical attack in Syria?

Q:  Over the weekend.

SEC. MATTIS:  (off mic) -- thank you very much.

STAFF:  That's it, folks.  Let's go.