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US Still Assessing Intel on Alleged Douma Chemical Attack - Mattis

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US Still Assessing Intel on Alleged Douma Chemical Attack - Mattis

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.

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.

Syria has denied using chemical weapons throughout the conflict that began in 2011, including the most recent suspected chemical attack Saturday in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus that killed at least 40 people.

Currently, the USA and its allies "don't have evidence" that the Syrian regime carried out the attack last Saturday in the Damascus suburb of Douma that reportedly killed at least 40, 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".

"Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

His comments came before he went to the White House Wednesday afternoon for a meeting on Syria.

"Mattis will not want a strike if it doesn't combine with an overall strategy toward Syria, which this administration does not have", James Jeffrey, who was ambassador to Iraq at the time that Mattis was head of U.S. Central Command, told Politico. "We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people, but on a strategic level, it's how do we stop this from escalating out of control?"

"We stand ready to provide military options, if they're appropriate, as the president determined", Mattis said.

One year ago this month, Trump ordered dozens of cruise missiles to be fired at a Syrian air base after declaring there was no doubt Assad had "choked out the lives of helpless" civilians in an attack that used banned gases.

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".

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

"This is a complex area, I'll be the first to admit it", Mattis said.

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