Trump, aides ponder Syria response; Mattis cites risks

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President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on Friday, April 13, 2018, in Washington, about the United States' military response to Syria's chemical weapon attack on April 7.

The US attack is using an alleged chemical weapons strike Saturday in Douma as a pretext, with Trump vowing to make Syria "pay the price", along with Russian Federation and Iran for supporting Assad.

Trump caught most of his aides and the Pentagon off-guard on Wednesday by declaring on Twitter that "nice and new and "smart" missiles would soon be fired toward Syria - an announcement that came before an agreement had been reached between key US allies, multiple American and Western officials said.

In his tweet on Wednesday, Trump referred to Assad as a "gas killing animal".

Just weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to end US involvement in Syria and bring American troops home to focus on the homeland.

Trump past year ordered a strike against Assad following a deadly sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the remaining rebels in Eastern Ghouta surrendered their heavy weapons to Russian military police and their leader left the enclave for the north.

But he was cautious in his public remarks about Syria on Wednesday, disclosing little about the decision-making process ahead of talks at the White House and saying the United States was still reviewing intelligence about the attack itself. CNN also reported that the USA used B-1 bombers, which are capable of firing cruise missiles. "But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted" by Syria and Russian Federation, she said.

"The US has to be very careful not to accidentally strike Russian targets or kill Russian advisors", Ben Connable, a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation, told AFP. The warning from Moscow came during a divided meeting of the UN Security Council which failed to pass any measures to set up an inquiry into the alleged attack.

General Sir Richard Barrons, a former commander of Joint Forces Command, said Russia's warnings that launch platforms could be targeted in response to air strikes meant "they are going to try and sink ships, sink submarines and shoot aircraft out of the sky - that's war". He said there is "no reason for this", and said it would be very easy to improve ties, punctuating it curiously with "stop the arms race?"

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"President Trump was quick to call out Assad today, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter", McCain said.

"Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime's chemical capabilities", he said, insisting he did "not want an escalation".

"The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and worldwide relations will take a constructive path", he said.

The Mezzeh military airport southwest of the capital was said to be a target, as well. It was not clear whether the presence of the investigators could affect the timing of any USA military action.

Peskov added there were no plans for Putin to call Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron or UK Prime Minister Theresa May amid the crisis. But the OPCW will not seek to establish who was responsible for the attack.

Russian Federation has threatened to respond firmly to any military action against the Syrian Government.

Haley said the three USA goals for accomplishing its mission are making sure chemical weapons are not used in a way that could harm US national interests, defeating the Islamic State group and having a good vantage point to watch what Iran is doing.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missile fired at Syria". President Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons was his "red line", but he did not intervene despite a reported chemical weapon attack in 2013.

In the UK, Cabinet ministers said that it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was responsible for the attack and said the use of chemical weapons must not "go unchallenged".

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