Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Global Media | By Derrick Guzman

United States concerned about triggering wider war as it weighs strike on Syria

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.

Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon Friday that the USA and its allies carried out a "heavy" one-time strike on Syria - double the size of last year's offensive - that President Donald Trump was authorized to order under the Constitution. "We sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons' attack for which they will be held accountable".

Mattis is asking that "responsible nations" join in condemning the Assad regime.

Despite foreign allies' expressions of confidence in the Syrian regime's culpability in the attack, USA officials have not ventured that far in public.

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.

"I am confident the Syrian regime conducted the chemical attack on innocent people in this last week - yes, absolutely confident of it", he said.

The third target was a facility for chemical weapons equipment storage and "an important command post", he said.

"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place". A delay in strikes after Trump publicly previewed them earlier this week could allow Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces to better prepare for them, multiple U.S. officials said.

In a statement, Antoly Antonov said, "We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences". Trump wrote in a Thursday morning tweet (Friday NZT) that an attack could happen "very soon or not so soon at all". "We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies".

"Should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future and of course, the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every reason to challenge Assad if should he choose to violate that", Mattis said.

"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.

Despite concerns of retaliation, Mattis said Syrian surface to air missiles were used, but did not say whether they were destroyed, and said more details would be available in the coming day.

Mattis said there was no evidence of US losses in the operation.

Mattis and Dunford acknowledged the strike was created to degrade Syria's chemical weapons capability without killing civilians or the many foreign fighters in Syria's multi-sided civil war, particularly those from Russian Federation.

US President Donald Trump has delayed a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria after tweeting earlier that they could happen "very soon or not so soon at all".

At the House hearing, Democrat representative Tulsi Gabbard disputed Trump's legal authority to act without congressional authority and suggested a USA strike would lead to war with Russian Federation.

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