WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump is still weighing options for US military action against Syria, as Western powers rallied against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over an apparent chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Initially, an attack in Syria seemed all but certain, with the president tweeting a warning to Russia to "get ready" and talking about missiles that are "nice and new and smart" – words that put the US military on alert.
But on Thursday, President Trump tweeted, "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all."
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
During a Cabinet meeting Thursday the president said, "We are looking very seriously, very closely at that situation and we will see what happens folks. We will see what happens. It's sad that the world puts us in a position like that."
A Complicated Decision
It's a tremendously complicated situation militarily. Russian, Iranian and Turkish forces are all operating in Syria, and American forces are also there going after ISIS fighters.
And the US doesn't want a military strike to widen into a bigger battle between the two sides led by the US and Russia.
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday, "We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people, but on a strategic level it's how we we keep this from escalating out of control."
"There's a tactical concern that we don't add to innocent civilian deaths and that we do everything humanly possible to avoid that. We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people," Mattis said Thursday. "We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria."
For now, a US destroyer is already in the Mediterranean, and a French warship is off the Lebanon coast.
Pentagon sources tell CBN News there may even be US and British submarines present, adding that a plan of attack could also include launching French planes from Jordan, and British forces from Cyprus.
How Russia Might Respond
Meanwhile, Russia is weighing its response in case America does lead an attack against its Syrian ally.
A top Russian military official warned last month that a US strike against Syria would draw a Russian counterstrike against both US missiles and the ships launching them.
And Thursday Russia's ambassador to the UN didn't rule out the possibility of a US-Russian conflict.
But Russia has moved its warships out of the Syrian port of Tartus to avoid a possible US strike.
Did Syria Do It or Not?
Meanwhile, the Assad regime denies using chemical weapons and called the images from the attack fake.
Assad said the threats by Western countries against Syria were "on the basis of lies they have fabricated," denying any responsibility for the suspected chemical strike.
"Any possible action will only cause more instability in the region and threaten international security and peace," Syrian state TV quoted Assad as saying at a meeting with a high-level Iranian delegation in Damascus on Thursday.
But French President Emmanuel Macron said France has proof chemical weapons, including chlorine, were used.
Chemical Experts Will Investigate in Syria
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will dispatch a special mission to the city of Douma to verify reports on the alleged use of chemical weapons, the organization said in a statement posted on its website.
"Since the first reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma, Syrian Arab Republic, were issued, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has been gathering information from all available sources and analyzing it," according to its website.