Russian Federation 'complicit' in Syrian regime's retention of chemical weapons: Mattis

Having second thoughts? Mattis says US ‘still assessing intelligence’ on alleged Syria attack

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signaled Thursday that the USA was prepared to wait for definitive proof that Syria carried out a chemical attack before launching an attack, but stressed the moral imperative for a US response. While Mattis said that he believes Syrians used chemicals in an attack on Douma last Saturday, chemical weapons inspectors have not yet had access to the site. Now you can look back to a year ago when we did fire missiles into Syria unrelated to ISIS and that was of course the use of chemical weapons.

"I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence", Mattis said.

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".

However, he reiterated Trump's attitude to the issue, saying the Pentagon was ready "to provide military options if they are appropriate as the president determines", NBC News reported.

Mattis confirmed President Donald Trump has not yet made a decision and said that after the hearing ends, he will attend a meeting of the National Security Council at the White House, at which he will "take forward the various options to the president". "In many cases, you know we don't have troops, we're not engaged on the ground there, so I can not tell you that we had evidence, even though we had a lot of media and social media indicators that either chlorine or sarin were used", Mattis said, speaking to members of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

Shortly after his tweeted warning to Russia, Mr. Trump took a more conciliatory tone in lamenting that the U.S. -Russia relationship "is worse now than it has ever been".

The Pentagon is now working under war powers granted in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks, even though operations across the Middle East have morphed broadly since those early days of seeking to destroy Al-Qaeda.

Mattis, addressing a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, declined to discuss US military planning on Syria.

But he suggested in another tweet early Thursday that there was no timeline for a US response. "So how do we deal with this very complex situation?" Where is our "Thank you America?"

Syria's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Mr. Trump's threats to attack are "reckless" and endanger global peace and security.

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