Combined military strikes against Syria by America, British and French forces involved more targets and twice as many weapons as a similar attack launched nearly exactly a year ago, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said late Friday.
Mattis briefed reporters at the Pentagon Friday an hour after President Donald Trump announced the strikes.
Trump in meetings with Mattis has pushed for an attack that would also hurt Russian Federation and Iran in addition to the Syrian government in response to an alleged chemical attack in Duma, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. In his conversation with May, the two "agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime", according to May's office. The strikes were in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma, near Damascus.
In London, the British Cabinet had "agreed that the Assad regime has a track record of the use of chemical weapons and it is highly likely that the regime is responsible for Saturday's attack", Downing Street said in a statement. "They will lose years of research data, specialized equipment, and extensive chemical weapons precursors".
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". "But at the same time, it was a heavy strike".
Mattis, addressing a hearing of the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, declined to discuss US military planning on Syria.
The latest development in Washington is after the British media report that UK Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet agreed "on the need to take action" in Syria. He did, however, say Syrian surface-to-air missiles were deployed against the attack, and did not believe Russian Federation responded at all.
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. The first target was a scientific research center located in the greater Damascus area.
"But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted" by Syria and Russian Federation, she said.
"Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message past year", Mattis said, referring to the retaliatory USA strike on a Syrian air field following a previous chemical weapons attack. "They can only say they found evidence or did not".
Messages are being passed to Moscow about the U.S. and its allies' intentions to create a "lasting deterrent" against the use of chemical weapons again, according to one senior administration official.
"Last year we conducted a unilateral strike on a single site", Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford revealed to reporters at the Department of Defense. "On a strategic level, it's: how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that".
Mattis said that although the United States has no hard proof, he believes the Syrian government was responsible for Saturday's attack. "America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances", he said.
Syrian state television reported explosions near the capital and said Assad-backed forces shot down more than a dozen missiles.