US Defence Secretary James Mattis heads to Middle East to discuss Islamic State and Syria

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US Defence Secretary James Mattis will travel to the Middle East and Africa to meet with allies in the region on 18 April to reiterate America's stance on Isis and the Syrian regime. He will arrive in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, before visiting Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and Djibouti.

During his tour, Mattis will reiterate US President Donald Trump's policies on Syria and will elaborate on Washington's strategy to combat Isis in Iraq and Syria.

While addressing a news conference at the Pentagon on 11 April, Mattis said that it was his hope to bring as many countries as possible into the Trump administration's new strategy, which includes diplomatic and non-military features. He added that the plan was still in its nascent stage.

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Announcing his visit, the Department of Defense said Mattis would "discuss cooperative efforts to counter destabilising activities and defeat extremist terror organisations".

US officials told Reuters that the policy on Syria was unchanged and will focus on defeating Isis militants and removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Speaking about the Mattis visit, Christine Wormuth a former Pentagon official said, "Particularly with the Saudis and the Israelis, part of the discussion will be clarifying for them what our strategy is towards Syria in light of the strike."

The US is also planning to aid those who are battling Houthi rebels in Yemen, as officials say they have evidence which proves Iran is sending weapons and military advisers to help the rebels, Reuters reported.

In December 2016, the Obama administration had blocked the transfer of high-grade weapons to Saudi Arabia as there were concerns about mounting civilian casualties in Yemen.

However, the Trump administration seems to be on the brink of reversing the move and could notify Congress of selling precision-guided munitions to the Arab kingdom.

James Mattis discusses the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee on 22 March 2017Department of Defence

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