Haley, Mattis divided on evidence of Syria gas attack

Trump Says Attack on Syria 'Could Be Very Soon or Not So Soon at All'

Defense Secretary James Mattis told Congress Thursday that he couldn't talk about military plans for retaliation against Syria because an attack "is not yet in the offing".

On Thursday, President Trump tweeted that he never provided a timeline for strikes against Syria in response to a suspected April 7 chemical attack.

Asked to comment on possible USA strikes, Peskov said "it's necessary to avoid any steps that may fuel tensions in Syria".

"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 strongly condemned the alleged poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter by a nerve agent in England and the reported chemical attack on Syrian civilians as affronts to civilization.

"We are trying to stop the murder of innocent people, how do we keep this from escalating out of control", he told Tsongas.

Mattis, addressing a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, declined to discuss USA military planning on Syria. Now you can look back to a year ago when we did fire missiles into Syria unrelated to ISIS and that was of course the use of chemical weapons.

"We will not know from this investigating team" who was responsible, Mattis said, although he theorized that chlorine or sarin nerve agent - or a combination of the two - were used in the barrel bombing of Douma.

Mattis confirmed President Donald Trump has not yet made a decision and said that after the hearing ends, he will attend a meeting of the National Security Council at the White House, at which he will "take forward the various options to the president".

Trump Says Attack on Syria 'Could Be Very Soon or Not So Soon at All'
Russia 'complicit' in Syrian regime's retention of chemical weapons: Mattis

"We're still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies", Mattis said.

Asked if the U.S. was ready for an attack, Mattis replied that "We stand ready to provide military options if they're appropriate, as the president determined". "We're still working on this".

Decisions will be made "fairly soon", Trump said, adding: "It's too bad that the world puts us in a position like that".

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

Mattis was referring to global investigating teams from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Mattis then took a shot at the Obama administration for, as it attempted to remove chemical weapons from Syria, enlisting help from the Russians, who Mattis said are now "complicit" in helping the Assad regime retain the weapons.

Several lawmakers grilled the Pentagon chief on the legal authorities the military has for action in Syria beyond the remit of its current mission, which is to work to destroy the Daesh.

President Trump has sent mixed messages on the US response, warning Russian Federation in a tweet Wednesday to "get ready" for USA missile strikes in Syria in retaliation for the attack.

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