Trump yet to make decision on Syria action, says Mattis

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"I will tell you when I leave here I'm going to a meeting - the National Security Council will be meeting on this, and we will take forward the various options to the president".

Mattis also said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "simply inexcusable", after a suspected poison gas attack in eastern Ghouta's Douma on Saturday.

The world has been on high-alert for a punitive USA missile strike on Syria, and Trump said in a tweet on Wednesday that Russian Federation should "get ready", missiles "will be coming".

"We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria", Mattis told lawmakers on the House Armed Services committee. "We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people", he told Rep. Niki Tsongas, D-Calif.

Defense Secretary Mattis told the Congress that the United States is committed to ending Syria civil war through Geneva process, blames Russian Federation for being complicit in Syrian regime's retention of chemical weapons. Other allies have been more cautious, but the United Kingdom government said Thursday the global community must "take action" against Syria to deter future use of chemical weapons.

The US has been in close consultations with Britain and France about launching a military operation in Syria as early as the end of this week, officials said.

He cautioned that even if the inspectors get access to the attack sites, they are not permitted under their mandate to assign blame, but only to determine that chemical agents were used.

"On a strategic level, it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", he said.

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Warning that he was concerned that a U.S. strike might lead to an "out of control" escalation in the Syrian war, Mattis said that Washington was "committed to ending that war through the Geneva process through the United Nations orchestrated effort". Trump said Thursday on Twitter.

"We have made steady progress over the last 14 months", Mattis said in opening remarks before the House committee.

After the budget request, Congress reached a two-year bipartisan budget deal lifting spending caps on defense and non-defense spending.

"This year's budget builds on a readiness recovery that we started in (2017) and reinforces our effort to develop the capabilities that we need both today and tomorrow", Dunford said.

"We meet under rather different circumstances than a year ago".

"We know that there are only certain countries like Syria that have delivery mechanisms and have those types of weapons". Mattis cited protection of the 2000 or so US troops in Syria helping to fight ISIS.

"This is a complex area, I'll be the first to admit it", Mattis said.

But he acknowledged two main concerns as Washington mulls potential action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces: protecting civilians and avoiding triggering a military escalation that gets "out of control".