US President Donald Trump called a chemical attack in the Syrian province Idlib an “affront to humanity” that has changed his attitude toward Syria and the country’s President.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his government have gone “beyond a red line” with their chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province, US President Donald Trump said, adding that his attitude toward Syria and the country’s President had changed. At the same time, Trump did not mention how he would respond. The statements were made during a news conference with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Wednesday.
During the news conference in the Rose Garden, Trump called the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian province of Idlib an “affront to humanity.”
“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack so horrific in Syria against innocent people including women, small children, and even beautiful little babies, their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” the US President said.
Trump stressed that the attack, which claimed lives of 80 people, including children, “crosses many, many lines.” The Reuters news agency and other media noted that in this way Trump tried to refer to the “red line” that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had drawn, threatening to topple Assad with airstrikes in case of continued usage of chemical weapons.
“I will tell you, what happened yesterday is unacceptable to me,” Trump told reporters. “And I will tell you, it’s already happened that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much,” he added.
The statement was made just a few days after the White House declared that it would be “silly” to persist in trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Trump blamed Obama for the attack, saying his predecessor’s failure to respond to a similar attack in 2013 opened the door for future strikes. “I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand,” Trump said. “And when he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long way, not only in Syria but in many parts of the world.”
When the US President was asked at an earlier meeting whether he was formulating a new policy on Syria, he answered: “You’ll see.”
In an interview with the New York Times newspaper ahead of the press conference, the US President was asked what the chemical attack meant for Russia’s role in the Syrian conflict as a supporter of Assad.
“I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned [with the Syrian government], and in this case, all information points to Syria that they [the Syrian government] did this,” Trump said.
Meanwhile, answering a question whether it was time to renew the call for Assad to be ousted and safe zones be established in Syria, US Vice President Mike Pence told the Fox News TV-channel: “But let me be clear, all options are on the table.”
On Tuesday, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces reported that 80 civilians were killed and 200 others were injured in the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun city in Idlib province. Oppositionists blamed the Syrian government forces for the attack. The Syrian Army’s Command resolutely rejected the accusations and blamed militants and their patrons for the attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the Syrian Air Force carried out an airstrike in the vicinity of Khan Shaykhun, targeting a terrorists’ ammunition depot, where arsenals of chemical weapons were stored. Presumably, these weapons should have been delivered to Iraq. The UN and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) have already taken up an investigation of the incident, but they still have not published any conclusions about possible perpetrators of the attack.
Earlier, Assad said that the Syrian government did not use weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons, against its own people. The Syrian President reminded that in 2013, Damascus agreed to destroy its chemical weapons storage facilities and today has no reserves of this type of weapons.