Mattis: Clearly Assad 'did not get the message' with strikes last year

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Mattis dismisses reports of his exit: 'I love it here' Publisher says Woodward book sales largest in its history MORE on Friday defended President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE's decision to launch military strikes on Syria, saying Syrian President Bashar Assad "did not get the message" to cease the use of chemical weapons after a U.S. strike last year.

"Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year," Mattis told reporters in a press briefing at the Pentagon. "This time our allies and we have struck harder."

"Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack, for which they will be held accountable."

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Mattis's comments came roughly an hour after Trump announced that the U.S., in concert with France and the United Kingdom, had launched "precision strikes" on Syria in retaliation for a deadly chemical attack in a Damascus suburb last weekend.

The strike, announced in the early morning hours local time in Damascus, was the second authorized by Trump against Syria in the span of roughly a year.

In April 2017, he ordered a missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack in the country's northern Idlib province.

That attack dealt only modest damage. In the lead-up to Friday's strike, Trump was said to be considering a more robust response in Syria than the one a year earlier.

"We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year," Mattis said Friday night. "We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike."

The U.S. and other Western countries have blamed Assad's government for the chemical attack last weekend. Syria and its allies, Russia and Iran, have denied that the government used chemical weapons.