Secretary of Defense James Mattis, accompanied by Army General Joseph L. Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, appeared before the press at the Pentagon on Tuesday to address questions that persist regarding the April 6th missile strike against the Syrian airfield reportedly responsible for a chemical attack carried out against civilians earlier in that week.

Mattis told reporters that he had personally reviewed the intelligence gathered by the American and allied intelligence apparatus in place in Syria and concluded that there was “no doubt” that Assad’s regime was responsible for both the decision to use chemical weapons and for the attack itself.

“In response to the attack, our government began a deliberate process, led by the National Security Council, to recommend diplomatic and military options to the president,” Mattis said.  According to the Defense Secretary, the meetings were conducted over two days and included talks with U.S. allies.

“The National Security Council considered the near-century-old international prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, the Syrian regime’s repeated violations of that international law, and the inexplicably ruthless murders the regime had committed,” Mattis said of the decision-making process.

Among the issues of discussion, according to Mattis, were how best to “deter the regime from doing this again,” as well as how to most effectively avoid civilian casualties while still striking at Assad’s operational capabilities.  He also added that “appropriate actions” were taken to ensure the safety of Russian personnel located at Syria’s Shayrat airfield, where the missile strike was targeted.

Mattis also spoke to the President’s ultimate decision to carry out the strike, which came after Mattis outlined multiple potential avenues and their predicted outcomes.  At that point, Mattis said, the president chose to take military action “consistent with U.S. vital national interests to deter the use of chemical weapons.”

“This military action demonstrates the United States will not passively stand by while [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] blithely ignores international law and employs chemical weapons he had declared destroyed,” Mattis said.

Important among Mattis’ points was the fact that last week’s missile strike was intended as a strategic deterrent to any further chemical weapon attacks, but did not represent a shift in U.S. policy toward unseating Assad from the helm of the Syrian government.