Mattis says: "I believe there was a chemical attack in Syria"

Open source

As the White House weighs a potential strike on Syria, a key concern is preventing the country's civil war from "escalating out of control", Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday.

Syria destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile in 2013 in a deal brokered by Russian Federation and the United States in exchange for the latter's agreement not to attack the Middle Eastern country.

"And some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale, and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention, but of civilization itself". Today, during a brief press appearance with Netherlands Minister of Defense Ank Bijleveld, Mattis refused to blame the Assad government of Syria for the alleged chemical attack.

Mattis said a decision had not been made about whether or how to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, which is accused of launching a chemical attack that killed dozens of people last weekend.

"We have got to look at the use of chemical weapons, whether it be in Salisbury England or in Syria, as something that's inexcusable and it's got to be addressed, and Russian Federation prevents the United Nations from dealing with it, we can sit acquiescent, or we can do something about it".

Mattis said the United States has yet to confirm details of the attack through global investigators.

Russian Federation on Thursday warned the U.S.to avoid any steps that could destabilize the situation there. "It's too bad that the world puts us in a position like that", he said.




"We're still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies", Mattis said.

He said that they were still trying to get Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectors to Douma within the week to collect evidence.

"We have forces in the field and the use of chemical weapons in Syria is not something that we should assume that 'well, because he didn't use them on us this time, he wouldn't use them on us next time, '" Mattis told Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.

Macron kept up the drumbeat for likely war with his claim of evidence that chemical weapons were used in the attack, although he did not elaborate. It also comes in the midst of another rash of deadly military incidents highlighting an ongoing readiness crisis.

"Both the last administration and this one made very clear that our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS", Mattis said. "There is agreement on the funding levels for defense for fiscal year 2019".

Several lawmakers grilled the Pentagon chief on the legal authorities the military has for action in Syria beyond the remit of its current mission, which is to work to destroy the Daesh. "We're still working on this", Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with defense officials from the Netherlands. "Going forward in the next decade... understanding our fiscal restraints and dealing with them is going to be a critically important part of making sure the military can do what it can do".

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