A day after President Trump said his attitude toward Syrian president Bashar al-Assad “has changed very much” following this week’s chemical attack, CNN provides an idea of what that actually means. In meetings with members of Congress, Trump has said he’s considering military action as retaliation for the attack, CNN reports.
Trump commented on Assad again Thursday aboard Air Force One, providing little detail, but insisting that “something should happen.”
“I think what Assad did is terrible. I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes. It shouldn’t have happened. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen,” he said. “I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. He’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen.”
Trump is said to be discussing options with Defense Secretary James Mattis and relying on the judgment of the retired four-star general.
Among the options on the table, CNN says, is a plan to disable Syria’s ability to use chemical weapons. But as reporter Barbara Starr noted on air, that would be a significant military operation. Nevertheless, she added, the Pentagon has a plan for getting that done.
Complicating matters, Starr noted, is the presence of Russian officials in Syria. There’s a “huge concern,” she said, that a strike on Assad’s chemical capabilities would unintentionally involve Russians.
Another apparent option is attempting to remove Assad from power. In the past week, the White House, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have all said Assad’s ouster was no longer a U.S. priority. But Thursday, Tillerson suggested the process of removing him from power has already begun.
Trump’s willingness to consider an attack on Assad runs counter to how he thought President Obama should respond to a much deadlier 2013 chemical attack. The year prior, President Obama had announced a “red line” regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons. In 2013, after the Syrian president had 1,400 of his people killed with sarin and VX gas, Obama had to decide whether to attack. He put the question to Congress, which took long enough to decide the issue that Syria cut a deal to turn over its chemical weapons, sidelining the question.
But as the debate over whether to intervene in Syria raged in Washington, Trump periodically chimed in on Twitter, and always with the same message: Don’t do it, President Obama!
After repeatedly insisting that Obama not attack Syria in 2013, Trump now faults Obama for not attacking Syria in 2013. And his next move could be to attack Syria.