Statement By Defense Secretary Mattis On Airstrikes Against Syria

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US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "simply inexcusable", after a suspected poison gas attack that left more than 40 people dead. "Right now we have no additional attacks planned".

Defense Secretary James Mattis says the US has no reports of suffering any losses during the initial airstrikes on Syria Friday, ABC reports.

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".

"We selected targets that would minimize the risk to innocent civilians", Dunford said.

Trump said the 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.

Syrian state television reported explosions near the capital and said Assad-backed forces shot down more than a dozen missiles.

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The first target was a military scientific research center in the greater Damascus area - used for research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons, he said.

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

The US and Russian Federation maintain a "deconfliction line" between the US al-Udeid air base in Qatar and Russia's Hmeymim military base in Syria to prevent conflicts.

Mattis was reportedly concerned about hitting Russian and Iranian targets, but he said the USA and allies "specifically identified" targets to mitigate the risk of Russian forces being involved.

He did not rule out any of the possibility of a US-Russia conflict, saying Moscow was very concerned with "the unsafe escalation" and "aggressive policies" that certain governments are making. Those were active this week to work through the air space issues and so forth.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford said there was no coordination with Russians and "nor did we pre-notify them".

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement that she "authorized British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime's chemical weapons capability and deter their use".

The ambassador said that Russian specialists went to Douma to inspect the situation, but could not find any evidence of a chemical attack: "Locals were interviewed about the cessation of resistance to the fighters".

He also condemned the recent chemical attack by the Syrian state in the suburb of Douma.

"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. Initial reports indicated the use of chlorine gas, possibly in addition to the nerve agent Sarin.

He said the president had Article II authority, allowing him to protect US forces deployed to Syria. "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances", he said. This time, our allies and we have struck harder.

"We were not out to expand this. 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 during the meeting, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

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