“It is very clear who planned this attack. That we do know with no doubt whatsoever.”
— Defense Secretary James Mattis
Defense Secretary James Mattis and Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of Central Command, sat down for a press conference on Tuesday afternoon to explain the rationale for the U.S. missile strike in Syria last week, Mattis then commented on the ongoing problems with North Korea and Russia as well. Mattis explained why the American government had no doubt that Syria was behind the chemical weapons attack, he also said that there was just no way to prove that Russia knew about the Syria using chemical weapons. Mattis also had a message for Syria, warning the Assad regime that it would be foolish to use chemical weapons again because the United States would be ready, willing, and able to step in… again.
I previously released a statement on the U.S. military’s response to the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons. I thought this was an appropriate time now for General Votel and me to update you on the military action itself.
Last Tuesday on the 4th of April, the Syrian regime attacked its own people using chemical weapons. I have personally reviewed the intelligence, and there is no doubt the Syrian regime is responsible for the decision to attack and for the attack itself.
In response to the attack, our government began a deliberate process, led by the National Security Council, to recommend diplomatic and military options to the president. We met over several days and I spoke with some of our allies.
The National Security Council considered the near-century-old international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, the Syrian regime’s repeated violations of that international law, and the inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed.
We determined that a measured military response could best deter the regime from doing this again. As always, we examined how best to avoid civilian casualties in the execution of the strike, and our actions were successful. Based on these considerations, on 6 April, the president directed military action consistent with our vital national interests to deter the use of chemical weapons.
This military action demonstrates the United States will not passively stand by while Assad blithely ignores international law and employs chemical weapons he had declared destroyed.
We were aware of the presence of Russians at the airfield and took appropriate actions to ensure no Russians were injured in the attack.
Our military policy in Syria has not changed. Our priority remains the defeat of ISIS. ISIS represents a clear and present danger, an immediate threat to Europe and ultimately, a threat to the United States homeland.
In closing, the Syrian regime should think long and hard before it again acts so recklessly in violation of international law against the use of chemical weapons.