The US has not ruled out launching airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in response to the weekend's suspected chemical gas attack on civilians, Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday.
"I don't rule out anything right now," Mattis said while hosting Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, at the Pentagon.
"The first thing we have to look at is why are chemical weapons still being used at all when Russia was the framework guarantor of removing all chemical weapons, and so working with our allies and partners from NATO to Qatar and elsewhere we are going to address this issue," Mattis continued.
National Security Council principals are holding a "small group" meeting to discuss Syria on Monday, led by John Bolton on his first official day as White House national security adviser, two administration officials told CNN.
A small group meeting is typically held to discuss options for the President, one of the officials said. President Donald Trump is not participating in the meeting according to a senior administration official.
Syrian activist groups on Saturday said toxic gas inside barrel bombs dropped from helicopters over a rebel-held city in Syria killed dozens of civilians and wounded scores more. Syrian state news said an "official source" denied the allegations.
Trump on Sunday warned Syria and its two closest allies, Russia and Iran, of a "big price to pay" following the attack, and slammed Assad as an "animal" on Twitter.
"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria," Trump tweeted. "Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price..."
He continued, "....to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!"