WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has put off a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria after tweeting earlier that they could happen “very soon or not so soon at all.” The White House said Thursday he would consult further with allies.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to an attack against civilians last weekend that US officials are increasingly certain involved the use of banned chemical weapons. British officials said up to 75 people were killed. The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a brief statement after Trump met with Mattis and other members of his National Security Council: “No final decision has been made. We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies.”
Sanders said Trump would speak later with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Although Mattis noted that military action carried risks, he also emphasized that Syrian use of chemical weapons should not be tolerated. And he insisted it remains US policy not to be involved directly in Syria’s civil war. “Our strategy remains the same as a year ago,” he said. “It is to drive this to a UN-brokered peace but, at the same time, keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it,” referring to the Islamic State extremist group.