President Trump on Tuesday said a deadly gas attack in Syria carried out by forces loyal to Syrian leader Bashar Assad is a “consequence” of former President Obama’s approach to the country’s civil war.
“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Trump said in a statement.
The president faulted his predecessor for helping create the conditions for the attack when he backed away from his 2012 “red line” on Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said.
Trump criticized Obama’s approach, even though he personally urged his predecessor not to intervene in the Syrian civil war on numerous occasions.
“AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA – IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!” he tweeted in September 2013.
“President Obama, do not attack Syria,” he tweeted days later. “There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”
Trump did not say how the U.S. would respond to the attack, which is considered the worst chemical weapons strike in years in Syria.
The strike, which was carried out in rebel-held area of Idlib Province, killed dozens of people, including children, and injured more.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Russia and Iran, both allies of Assad, to discourage him from using chemical weapons on his own people.
“We call upon Russia and Iran, yet again, to exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again,” Tillerson said in a statement. “Russia and Iran also bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.”
Syrian military forces have denied using chemical weapons in the attack, according to Reuters.
The attack posed a sharp challenge to the Trump administration, which has said it wants to shift its focus away from the civil war and onto the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Tillerson just days ago said that the “longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Tuesday that the secretary’s comments “speak to the political realities of the situation in Syria” but said that Assad’s exit as leader is “in the best interest of the Syrian people.” – The Hill