Speaking at a White House press conference, President Donald Trump appeared to take responsibility for recent events in Syria, condemning the chemical attack that killed more than 80 civilians as a “heinous” act.
“Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack that was so horrific in Syria against innocent people, including women, small children and even beautiful little babies, their deaths were an affront to humanity,” Trump said, speaking in the Rose Garden alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II. “These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this horrific attack and all other horrific attacks, for that matter.”
The president added that the attack had changed his views on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal that people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line, many many lines,” he said, referring to a line that his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had drawn before a similar attack by Assad’s troops in 2013.
Trump’s statements lie in stark contrast to his initial response to the attack, in which he accused the Obama administration of exacerbating the conflict.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”
When asked about his past statements about Obama, Trump said, “I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly,” but this did not stop him from further criticizing his predecessor.
“When he didn’t cross that line after making the threat,” Trump said, “I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat.”
But in the past, Trump has advocated for the Obama administration to “do nothing” in Syria, as his past tweets suggest.
The only reason President Obama wants to attack Syria is to save face over his very dumb RED LINE statement. Do NOT attack Syria,fix U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
Trump proposed a non-interventionist stance in more than a dozen tweets between 2013 and 2014, repeatedly stating that “Syria is NOT our problem.”
Obama wants to unilaterally put a no-fly zone in Syria to protect Al Qaeda Islamists http://t.co/DCgP83Oxas Syria is NOT our problem.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2013
The president’s critics noted, however, that in neither response did he did offer any details on how US strategy in Syria would change. Nor did he directly criticize Russia, which has actively backed the Assad regime and has remained silent following worldwide condemnation of the attack other than initially to suggest the chemical attacks were the result not of Assad’s actions but rebel bombings of chemical plants–a claim derided as false by eye-witnesses and the international community.
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