September 29, 2020 | News | No Comments
Does President Donald Trump assume his administration can just launch a surprise, unilateral military attack against Syria?
“I’m not saying I’m doing anything one way or another, but I’m certainly not going to be telling you.” —President Donald TrumpThe clear impression he left during a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the White House, as he stood alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah II, is that he can—and that he just might—but that he won’t tell “you” about it.
Just hours after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations appeared to threaten unilateral action against Syria, Trump said he considers the alleged use of chemical weapons on Tuesday “beyond a red line” that “would not be tolerated” but refused to offer any clarity on what actions his administration would take in response.
Though he cited no evidence, Trump put the blame for Tuesday’s chemical attack squarely at the feet of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and said his previous attitude toward the Syrian government—presented essentially as a hands-off approach—has “changed very much” in the last 24 hours.
“I will tell you, that attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me,” Trump said. “Big impact.”
In response to Trump’s afternoon remarks, Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, told Common Dreams the president showed a “total lack of any strategic coherence in his foreign policy.”
Trump is repeating a familiar mistake, said Bennis, by publicly blaming “the Syrian regime for the horrific chemical attack in Idlib without any certainty of who is actually responsible – something common to virtually all recent presidents.” Notably, she added, it was Trump who “urged President Obama not to attack Syria after the chemical bombing of 2013, tweeting in all caps “DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.”
Now, said Bennis, it’s clear that Trump is considering a military response himself, even as the investigatory process has only just begun. As Bennis notes, the deadly attack in 2013 “was also by carried out by uncertain perpetrators, and again saw the U.S. government blaming the Syrian regime despite the lack of clear proof.”
Once again, the finger-pointing in the wake of a vicious massacre will have serious regional and global implications.
During a tense meeting of the UN Security Council earlier in the day, members demanded a thorough and credible investigation into what happened on Tuesday. While the U.S. and its western allies pointed the finger at Assad for the attack, Russia’s ambassador insisted that blame should not be assigned until an official probe, including expert and impartial analysis of the area where the massacre took place, could be conducted. Unfortunately, said Russia’s deputy UN envoy Vladimir Safronkov, the U.S. and its European allies have “a well-defined ideological slant” when it comes to chemical weapons and questioned the direction the council was headed.
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