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

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

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

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Thursday said the U.S. is still looking for "actual evidence" of a chemical weapons attack in Syria but United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley said the United States has "enough" proof.

Thursday's hearing, which included Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was slated to discuss the Pentagon's 2019 budget request, but was heavily focused on Syria.

On the complicated nature of the fight in Syria, Mattis said "at times you're going to see contrary impulses", after Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, read out some of President Donald Trump's tweets this week, first vowing to strike Syria, then suggesting the strikes may not be soon.

"As each day goes by - as you know, it is a non-persistent gas - so it becomes more and more hard to confirm it", Mattis told the lawmakers.

"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place", Trump said. "The OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) is the organization for the chemical weapons convention - we're trying to get those inspectors in probably within the week".

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".

But Mattis added that even if the investigative team is allowed by the Bashar al-Assad regime to get to the site, "we will not know who did it - they can only say they found evidence or they did not".

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Later in the morning, the president said a decision on Syria will be made "fairly soon". "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". "Our strategy is to engage by, with and through allies in all things we do". Mattis said US troops in the country are at risk given the brutal tactics of Assad's regime.

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

Mattis said the United States has yet to confirm details of the attack through worldwide investigators. "We're still working on this", he reiterated.

The release says the U.S. Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control has blocked the airline for transporting weapons and ammunition to Syria in conjunction with Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Mattis also accused Russian Federation of being complicit in Syria's retention of chemical weapons, despite a 2013 deal requiring Syria to abandon them that Moscow helped broker. It is in the United States' best interests that global agreements banning the use of chemical weapons be obeyed, he said.

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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