WASHINGTON — President Trump said at a cabinet meeting this morning that he’ll “be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours” over how to respond to the latest deadly chemical attack in Syria.
Initial reports indicate the agent used Saturday on the people of Douma by Bashar al-Assad’s regime may have been sarin or a mix of sarin and chlorine. Dozens of people were killed a year ago when sarin was dropped on Khan Shaykhun; Trump responded with a cruise missile attack on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base. The attack on Douma has killed at least 42.
A raid was carried out on a Syrian airbase Sunday, hitting members of Iran’s military; Iran and Russia blamed Israel, which wouldn’t confirm or deny their involvement in the operation but has made clear Iran setting up shop with Assad is not acceptable.
Trump slammed the “heinous attack on innocent Syrians with banned chemical weapons” at the cabinet meeting.
“It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible. You don’t see things like that. As bad as the news is around the world, you just don’t see those images,” he said. “We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else. And we’ll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We are very concerned, when a thing like that can happen. This is about humanity. We’re talking about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen.”
“So we’ll be looking at that barbaric act, and studying what’s going on. We’re trying to get people in there. As you know, it’s been surrounded, so it’s very hard to get people in, because not only has it been hit, it been surrounded. And if they’re innocent, why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove? Because, as you know, they’re claiming they didn’t make the attack. So if it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out, and we’ll know the answers quite soon. So we’re looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously.”
Asked if he still wanted to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, Trump replied that a decision on Syria response would be made “very quickly, probably by the end of today.”
“But we cannot allow atrocities like that,” he said. “They’re not all right.”
The press corps was hustled out of the room as Trump was pressed on his tweet vowing that there will be a “big price to pay” for the attack. “Everybody’s going to pay a price. He will, everybody will,” Trump replied. “Nothing’s off the table. Nothing’s off the table.”
Today is National Security Advisor John Bolton’s first official day on the job.
On Sunday, Trump spoke by phone with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and French President Emanuel Macron.
“Both leaders strongly condemned the horrific chemical weapons attacks in Syria and agreed that the Assad regime must be held accountable for its continued human rights abuses,” the White House said of the Macron call. “They agreed to exchange information on the nature of the attacks and coordinate a strong, joint response.”