French president claims 'proof' Syria used chemical weapons in deadly attack

Katrina Barker
April 13, 2018

The U.S. and its allies are "still assessing the intelligence" needed to prove the Assad regime conducted a recent alleged chemical attack in Syria, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday.

Trump earlier this week suggested that an attack was imminent.

When asked about the military option in Syria, Donald Trump said that "nothing is off the table". "So the recognition of that means at times you are going to see contrary impulses", Mattis told lawmakers.

Mattis, in some of his strongest comments on Syria to date, said he had been convinced of a chemical attack in Syria.

"Some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale and in the worst interest of, not just the chemical weapons convention, but of civilization itself", Mattis said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. "It is 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. 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.

The president also seemed to suggest that a decision about military action has not been made, telling reporters Thursday morning, "We're having a meeting today on Syria and we're having a number of meetings today, we'll see happens", said Mr. Trump, adding, "We're looking very, very seriously, very closely at that situation and we'll see happens folks, we'll see what happens, it's too bad the world puts us in a position like that".

Asked in a TV interview whether France would join strikes on Syria, Macron said, "We will need to take decisions in due course, when we judge it to be most useful and effective", according to Agence France Presse. "But on a strategic level, it's [about] how do we keep this from escalating out of control", Mattis said.

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

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. The OPCW said Thursday it will be on the ground investigating the suspected chemical attack beginning Saturday.

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.

"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.

In 2014, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed that Syria's chemical weaposn arsenal had been eliminated.

Other reports by AllAboutTopnews

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