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

Trump Wants to Make 'Major Decisions' on Syria in Next '24-48 Hours'

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said the United States is not going to engage in the civil war in Syria but will continue to focus on defeating ISIS.

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.

Mattis said he would discuss Syria options at a National Security Council meeting later Thursday, and promised to keep Congressional leaders informed if the Pentagon did decide to strike.

"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place".

"On a strategic level, [the issue is] how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", he said, likely alluding to the prospects of a confrontation between Russian and USA forces deployed in the Middle Eastern country. However, there have been "contrary impulses", he said, such as last year's USA missile strikes in Syria in response to a chemical attack and now recent discussions for another strike for the same reason.

"Some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale and in the worst interest of not just the chemical weapons convention but of civilisation itself", Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee.

"Our strategy remains the same as a year ago: 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", Mattis said.

Donald Trump said at a Cabinet meeting that "major decisions on Syria" will come in the next 24 to 48 hours after he figures out who was responsible for the alleged attack in Douma - Russia, or Syria, or Iran, or "all of them together".

Later in the morning, the president said a decision on Syria will be made "fairly soon".

"We're still assessing the intelligence ourselves, and our allies". "So, I can not tell you that we have evidence, even though we have a lot of media and social media indicators that either chlorine or sarin was used". "We're still working on this".

One of his biggest concerns in a potential strike, however, is the death of innocent civilians, Mattis said.

"France will not allow any escalation that could harm the stability of the region as a whole but we can't let regimes that think they can do everything they want, including the worst things that violate global law, to act", Macron said.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria", Mr. Trump wrote.

Mattis then took a shot at the Obama administration for, as it attempted to remove chemical weapons from Syria, enlisting help from the Russians, who Mattis said are now "complicit" in helping the Assad regime retain the weapons.

Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct U.S-Russian military clash.

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