President Trump said Thursday that he will be holding another meeting on Syria today, and that he would have a decision "fairly soon."
Trump said Wednesday that he would have a decision last night following a meeting with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Dunford.
As President Trump prepares for yet another meeting on Syria, we note that Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee that "we are not going to engage" in Syria's civil war, adding that "our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS,” but "some things are simply inexcusable, beyond the pale" like a chemical weapons attack.
Mattis was responding to a question from Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who said "a gyration of comments coming out of the White House" is sending contradictory messages, and Mattis himself seemed to contradict the President as he "believed there was a chemical attack" in Syria, but the US is looking for evidence (clearly not proclaiming that Assad did it... or that it happened at all).
Mattis concluded that he would notify congressional leaders before any strike on Syria, adding that there's risk in any strike of it "escalating out of control."
The retired general said he would go to the White House after his hearing to help brief Trump on Syria.
Trump added that options outside of a military strike are being considered.
"We'll see what happens," Trump said, during a brief meeting with reporters. "It's too bad, the world puts us in a position like that." He added that a decision would come "fairly soon."
Early Thursday morning, Trump tweeted that the Syria attack "could take place very soon" or "not so soon at all". Meanwhile, Russia has said it has evidence that Syrian rebels are in possession of chemical weapons stockpiles.
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
The meeting is set to begin at 2:30 pm ET.
Meanwhile, Putin’s spokesman said that the Russian and U.S. militaries are maintaining contact via a telephone hotline. Russia is counting on cooler heads to prevail, said Frants Klintsevich, a Russian lawmaker and member of Putin's United Russia party.
Italy's president has said Italy won't join in the response, a sentiment echoed by German leader Angela Merkel, who said that while there's "very strong evidence" the Syrian regime used the weapons, she ruled out participating in military action, per Bloomberg.
Elsewhere in Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron said there's proof that Assad's regime again used chemical weapons on noncombatants.
And after threatening to authorize unilateral action without input from Parliament, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called an emergency cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss how the UK might respond.