Trump considering military action in Syria after Idlib chemical attack

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Destruction seen in war-torn Syrian central city of Homs. Photo: ARA News

The US President Donald Trump told members of Congress on Thursday that he was thinking of military action against Syria. This comes just two days after the Syrian regime forces reportedly launched a chemical attack on Idlib province, killing dozens of civilians, including children.

Washington blamed the deadly attack on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

It is unclear how much US military planning exists on striking targets associated with Assad’s government in Syria.

The Pentagon is presenting a range of possible military options the White House could take in response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

A US official told reporters that options include strikes to ground the Syrian air force.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis is presenting the options to President Trump and administration officials in response to White House requests, the official said.

The official stressed that no decisions had been taken.

Trump suggested that Assad may have to leave power after this week’s chemical weapons attack.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Trump said Thursday that what happened in Syria is “a disgrace to humanity.” Asked if Assad should go, Trump said, “He’s there, and I guess he’s running things so something should happen.”

The president would not discuss what, if anything, the United States might do in response to the deadly chemical attack. He said the attack “shouldn’t have happened, and it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Trump said he may talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Syria. Russia is a key supporter of the Assad government.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday about a poison gas attack in Syria that the United States has blamed on the Russia-backed Syrian government, a senior State Department official said on Thursday.

The discussion came days before Tillerson goes to Moscow for talks with Russian officials expected to focus on the Syrian civil war and Russia’s backing of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We sought the Russian analysis or readout of what they thought had happened” in the poison gas attack, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Tillerson also said Washington would make an “appropriate response” to Tuesday’s suspected chemical attack in Syria, while calling for the ouster of Assad.

“We are considering an appropriate response (to the) violations of all previous UN resolutions, violations of international norms,” he said in televised comments at the Palm Beach International Airport in Florida, where he greeted Chinese President Xi Jinping who was arriving for a summit with US President Donald Trump.

Tillerson did not specify what actions the United States would take.

He added: “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people.”

US intelligence: Assad kept some chemical weapons

US intelligence agencies suspect that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad kept some of the chemical weapons or components that he agreed to surrender under a 2013 US-Russian deal, a US intelligence official said.

“We have never taken the Assad regime at its word that it declared its entire chemical weapons stockpile,” said the US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Assad has repeatedly shown that he is willing to use whatever chemical weapons he has retained or reconstituted to attack and terrorize his own people,” the official said.

Agencies

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