On Tuesday, almost 60 people died in Syria after warplanes dropped bombs filled with chemicals. The number includes women and children. Many suspect President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the attack.

President Donald Trump condemned the attack, but also ripped into former President Barack Obama for not sticking to his “red line” on Syria:

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Mr. Trump said in a statement.

“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” he added. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ’red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.”

Trump’s Line

Trump spoke to reporters on Wednesday about the attack, stating that it “crossed a lot of lines” for him:

“I now have responsibility, and I will have that responsibility and carry it very proudly,” Trump said responding to a question about a White House statement Tuesday that blamed the attack in part on President Barack Obama.

“It is now my responsibility. It was a great opportunity missed,” Trump said.

Trump did maintain that Obama’s failure to respond to his red line threat “was a blank threat (that) set us back a long ways, not only in Syria but in many other parts of the world.”

The President condemned the attack as “heinous.”

“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 from the Rose Garden. “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.”

However, Trump did not offer specifics on how the U.S. will confront Syria:

“You will see,” Trump said when asked if he would take new action, according to pool reporters present when Trump welcomed Jordan’s King Abdullah to the Oval Office.

“These are very troubled times in the Middle East, and we see what happened just recently yesterday in Syria — horrible. Horrible, horrible thing. Unspeakable,” Trump said, later calling it a “terrible affront to humanity.”

The Red Line

In August 2012, then-President Obama considered chemical attacks in Syria a “red line” for the regime:

“What I’m saying is we’re monitoring that situation very carefully,” Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room.

But if the Assad regime were to use its weapons stockpiles, or alternatively, move it around, Obama suggested military action could be on the table.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” the president said. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

Obama also told NBC News that the United States had “communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.”

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made similar remarks:

“Both the minister [Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu] and I saw eye to eye on the many tasks that are ahead of us, and the kinds of contingencies that we have to plan for, including the one you mentioned in the horrible event that chemical weapons were used. And everyone has made it clear to the Syrian regime that is a red line for the world,” Clinton said at the time.

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta even admitted that Obama’s inaction after the Syrian regime crossed the red line hurt America’s reputation:

Chemical Attacks in Syria

A chemical attack in Khan al-Assal, Aleppo, Syria, killed 26 people in injured 86 more. Of course, the Syrian regime and opposition blamed each other for the attack. The UN report on this situation did not identify the culprit.

Rockets containing the chemical agent sarin hit Ghouta, Syria, in August 2013. The attack killed between 350 and 1,400 people. The opposition blamed the Syrian regime while the regime blamed the opposition. The United Nations stated that “[T]he perpetrators likely had access to the chemical weapons stockpile of the Syrian military, as well as the expertise and equipment necessary to manipulate safely large amount of chemical agents.”

Remember the red line Obama mentioned? Well, U.S. officials claimed they had proof that Assad’s regime caused the attack and it did indeed cross the red line. Obama offered to send more support to the opposition but didn’t get into specifics.

In August of that year, Obama said he would go to Congress and ask “for authorization to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian government, but appears to lack the necessary support in the legislature.” Instead, the U.S. and Moscow came to an agreement that Syria should “destroy its chemical weapons stockpile.” The UN Security Council agreed, but stated that it would “authorize the use of force in the event of non-compliance.”


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