United States "looking for the actual evidence" of Syria chemical attack, Mattis says

Clay Curtis
April 14, 2018

The recognition of Syria's complexities "means you are at times. going to see contrary impulses", Mattis said.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that Russian Federation should get ready for new and "smart" missiles that would be coming to Syria.

Still, he said the attack was "inexcusable, beyond the pale, and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention, but civilization itself".

"They can only say they found evidence or did not, and as each day goes by, as you know it's a non-persistent gas, so it becomes more and more and more hard to confirm it", Mattis said. "I've never seen refugees as traumatized as coming out of Syria".

"Our strategy remains the same as a year ago", he said. "It is to drive this to a United Nations brokered peace but at the same time keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it".

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford appear on Capitol Hill on Thursday.

In fact, Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers today that he will provide the White House with military options against the Syrian regime, but the president has not yet settled on a course of action.

"He wants Mattis to push the limits a little bit more", one White House official said.

Mattis said options would be discussed with Trump at a meeting of his National Security Council on Thursday afternoon. He continued that decisions will be "made fairly soon".

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According to the reports, the president wants the United States response to an alleged chemical strike by the Assad regime in Syria to also include measures that would hurt Damascus allies Russian Federation and Iran.

Mattis insisted the U.S. policy in Syria still remained the same, which was the total defeat of the Daesh terrorist group without getting directly involved in the conflict.

"We will not know, if this investigating team that goes in - if we get them in, if the regime will let them in - we will not know who did it", he said.

Mattis said a strike on the Assad regime in Syria would be authorized under Constitutional powers granted to the president, and would not require Congressional permission.

"We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people".

The US has been in close consultations with Britain and France about launching a military operation in Syria as early as the end of this week, officials said.

Mattis, in some of his strongest comments on Syria to date, said he had been convinced of a chemical attack in Syria. "Thereby, the use of sarin and chlorine is not confirmed".

He cautioned that even if the inspectors get access to the attack sites, they are not permitted under their mandate to assign blame, but only to determine that chemical agents were used.

Thursday's wide-ranging discussion, which touched on budgetary issues early on, could also play into the development of the next National Defense Authorization Act, which directs policy and spending plans for the Defense Department.

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