U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States is not going to get further involved in Syria despite ordering last week’s missile attack on the Syrian air base believed to be the source of the chemical weapons that killed scores of civilians, including children.
“We’re not going into Syria,” Trump told Fox Business News reporter Maria Bartiromo in an interview that aired Wednesday.
After seeing images of dying children in the chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, Trump said he decided a military response was necessary. “When I saw that, I said we have to do something.”
Trump warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of launching the chemical weapons attack with Russia’s help, is “very bad for Russia” and “very bad for mankind.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer, however, said the president would not rule out another strike if Assad attacked civilians with chemical weapons again.
“Should they continue to use gas, especially against children and babies … all options remain on the table,” Spicer told reporters Wednesday in Washington. “I think the president showed last Thursday night that he will use a decisive, justified and proportionate action to right wrongs.”
The United States, meanwhile, has sharply rejected Russian claims that the nerve gas sarin, the agent believed responsible for scores of deaths in Syria last week, was the inadvertent result of an airstrike on a rebel-held munitions depot. A U.S. report says it is clear the chemical-weapons assault was a deliberate attack on civilians.
The National Security Council released a report at the White House Tuesday declaring that Syria’s “unacceptable” use of outlawed chemical weapons is a clear threat to the world. It accused both Syria and Russia of attempting to “confuse the world community about who is responsible for using chemical weapons against the Syrian people,” both on this occasion and previously.
The NSC called on the international community to speak out and make clear that “this behavior will not be tolerated,” although it did not specify possible consequences.
Security Council resolution
At the United Nations, the United States, Britain and France look set to go ahead with a revised Security Council resolution on Wednesday — even though such an effort is expected to be vetoed by Russia.
At a White House briefing in Washington, U.S. national-security officials said Moscow, a key ally of Syrian President Assad, engaged in “a very clear campaign to obfuscate the nature of the attack.” They cited evidence, such as images of charred roadway showing that the gas shells dropped from the sky on April 4 landed in the middle of a street, not on a building, as Damascus and the Kremlin have claimed.
The American officials said Syria has ignored its 2013 agreement to dismantle its stockpiles of chemical weapons. “We know the Syrian regime has sarin gas,” one official said, speaking on background. “We are confident the rebels [fighting Assad’s government] don’t have sarin.”
The clear-cut nature of this month’s sarin attack should be seen as “an opportunity for Russia to end its disinformation campaign” about Syria’s use of banned weapons, they added.
Turkey announced Tuesday that its tests confirm sarin was used in the attacks that killed about 90 people and sickened hundreds more.
Question of Russia’s role in attack
Ankara’s health minister said blood and urine samples were examined during autopsies on three victims of the gas attacks whose bodies were brought in from Syria’s Idlib province. The World Health Organization and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons participated in the post-mortem examinations.
Despite the growing agreement about Syria’s tactics, there was no clarity on the question of whether, or to what extent, Russia colluded with Syria in carrying out the attack. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said U.S. intelligence officials have not been able to come up with a “consensus” on that issue.
Russian President Putin has called for a U.N. investigation of the chemical weapons attack, which prompted U.S. naval forces to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Syrian air base believed to be the source of the sarin.
Putin contended the U.S. staged “provocations” to bolster its charges against Syria, although he gave no details or evidence in his statement. The Kremlin leader also claimed Washington is planning a new missile launch against Syria, which supposedly would target an area south of the capital, Damascus, “where they [the Americans] are planning to again plant some substance and accuse Syrian authorities” of using chemical weapons.