Middle East

06 Apr 2017

Trump changes strategy in Syria after chemical attack

“My attitude to Syria and Assad has changed very much. We are now talking about a whole different level. What happened yesterday is unacceptable to me. You will see. They will have a message, you will see what the message will be,” said Donald Trump about the deadly attacks in Syria, during a press conference in the White House.

This is a radical shift in the president’s strategy, it was only in last week that the US administration, had said that the diplomatic policy was no longer focused on Assad’s removal from power. Tuesday’s chemical attack in Idlib, which was the worst in the four years sice the attack on East Ghouta, seems to be a gamechanger for the US’s strategy. Donald Trump had criticised former president Barack Obama for interfering in the Syrian civil war, but now it seems he will join the group of international leaders that want to take decisive action against Assad.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that’s so lethal-people were shocked to hear which kind of gas it was. That crosses many lines, beyond a red line,” said the US president when asked by a journalist if this attack crosses one of his red lines. Trump denied revealing details about how he will respond commenting that he doesn’t want to say where and what is he going to do.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador in the United Nations (UN), spoke in front of the assembly while displaying the deeply saddening pictures of dead Syrian children. She attacked Russia, which is an ally of Assad, saying: “Time and time again, Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their allies in Damascus. Time and time again, without any factual basis, Russia attempts to put blames on others.” Haley was referring to the earlier Russian announcement that said the deaths were a result of an airborne attack on a rebel chemical weapon compound. Haley continued saying that “when the UN consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of States when we are compelled to take our own actions. There is an obvious truth here that must be spoken. Russia, Iran and Assad have no interest in real peace.”

Theresa May, speaking to journalists during her visit to Saudi Arabia, expressed her opinion that Assad should be ousted as soon as possible. “I’m clear that there can be no future for Assad in a stable Syria, which is representative of all the Syrian people, and I call on all the third parties involved to ensure that we have a transition away from Assad. We cannot allow this suffering to continue,” said the British prime minister.

Autopsy conducted in bodies of dead Syrians that were initially hospitalized in Turkey, after the attack, showed that chemical weapons were used in Idlib against the rebels. Turkey’s report to the UN, arrived just before the UN Security Council meeting and mentioned that chlorine gas was used in the attack. A World Health Organisation (WHO) delegation attended the autopsies, performed by Turkish doctors, and samples were later collected for further investigation.