U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress on Thursday he believes there was a chemical attack in Syria, adding that the United States wants inspectors on the ground soon since the job of collecting evidence becomes more hard as time passed.
Earlier today, President Donald Trump had approved U.S. military strikes against Syrian chemical weapons sites, in collaboration with the United Kingdom and France.
«But right now this is a one-time shot and I believe that it sent a very strong message to dissuade him to, to deter him from doing this again».
The strikes are expected to lead to the «long-term degradation» of Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities, as the American-led attack is believed to have obliterated essential data, equipment and stockpiles.
In London, the British Cabinet had «agreed that the Assad regime has a track record of the use of chemical weapons and it is highly likely that the regime is responsible for Saturday’s attack», Downing Street said in a statement.
Mattis put the onus for verification on an Organization on a Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding team assigned to investigate, saying Washington is trying to get them to the site outside of Damascus within the week. The United States and allies struck Syria Friday night and Russian Federation has promised that the attack will come with consequences. Initial reports indicated the use of chlorine gas, possibly in addition to the nerve agent Sarin.
Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he sees no legal justification for a United States strike in Syria, absent explicit authorisation by Congress. But he said the United States did not tip off Russian Federation about the attacks or the targets.
Trump said the U.S.is prepared to sustain pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons.
James Mattis also urged the world community to act together with a singular resolve to prevent any country from using chemical weapons in future.
Asked about the risks of USA military retaliation, Mattis cited two concerns, starting with avoiding civilian casualties. «Reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Duma on April 7». During the Pentagon briefing, it was revealed that three facilities had been targeted, all related to Syrian chemical storing, and scientific research facilities.
Mattis said military planners made efforts to avoid civilian casualties.
«On a strategic level, it’s how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that», he said. Trump wrote in a Thursday morning tweet (Friday NZT) that an attack could happen «very soon or not so soon at all».
«Important infrastructure was destroyed which will result in a setback for the Syrian regime», Mattis said.
He adds that, «America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria — under no circumstances» and says that, «As other nations step up our contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home».
The White House said on Thursday (Friday NZT), that Trump would consult further with allies.