President Donald Trump has reportedly told members of Congress that he is considering taking military action in Syria in retaliation for this week's poison gas attack. CNN reports the president has discussed military options with Defense Secretary James Mattis, but has yet to make a firm decision on the U.S. response.
Comments by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggest the U.S. might be considering regime change in Syria.
Tilerson said he sees no role for President Bashar Assad in governing the Syrian people.
Mr. Trump and his advisers will likely take a closer look at who may actually be responsible for the attack. Was it the work of Russia and Assad, or the Al-Qaeda splinter group known as Jabhat al-Nusra?
At least 86 Syrians, including 26 children were killed Tuesday in the attack in the city of Idlib.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and President Trump were among those quick to place blame on the Russians and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
On Wednesday, as he stood alongside Jordan’s King Abdullah in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump called the gas attack a heinous act, one that has changed his views on Syria and President al-Assad.
“When you kill innocent children, innocent babies—babies, little babies with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines beyond a red line—many, many lines.”
The president also criticized former president Obama for backing down from taking military action in 2012 after drawing a red line in the sand when the Syrian president reportedly used chemical weapons.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
But one positive result of Mr. Obama’s red line threat was a deal reached with Assad and Russian President Putin in 2013 which led to the Syrian president’s admission that he did, in fact, possess chemical weapons. He then allowed inspectors into Syria to inventory and remove his chemical arsenal.
Did the inspectors find and remove all of Assad’s chemical weapons? Probably not, but they did get the bulk of them.
In June 2014, then Secretary of State John Kerry tweeted that the last of Assad’s chemical weapons had been removed from Syria.
President Obama’s critics say his hesitancy to extensively arm moderate rebel groups and take direct U.S. military action in Syria opened the door to Russia’s direct involvement. When a void is left, someone else always seems to step in.
True, Putin and al-Assad have used many heinous and brutal tactics while waging war in the country. The have dropped barrel bombs on innocent civilians and reportedly have used poison gas against people in other cities. The Idlib attack was just the most recent among many.
Reporting on Syria, I’ve often found the truth hard to find because the many players in the war have skillfully spread propaganda on the internet and throughout the media.
In the past, the Syrian rebels have staged attacks and civilian deaths on video for propaganda purposes.
Some witnesses of the Idlib attack say they saw two Russian planes—likely piloted by Syrians drop bombs just before the gas was released. But the Russians say they were bombing a rebel position, a warehouse that was being used as a chemical weapons factory and depot.
Assad supporters say he would have little to gain in the war at this point by risking the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Several alternative media sites reported rebels staged the attack to lay blame on the Syrian government and 24-hours prior to the Idlib gas attack, one journalist reportedly tweeted that he would be covering a chlorine gas attack against civilians in Hama, 50 miles south of Idlib.
They say he would not have known the tragedy was about to happen unless he had received advanced notice.
They also claim White Helmet rescuers did not follow proper medical procedures when they handled the alleged sarin gas victims with bare hands; Where were their gloves, masks and safety boots?
Last December, the FARS News Agency reported and Imgur showed photos of chemical weapons discovered during a YPG (Kurdish militia) raid on an eastern Aleppo rebel warehouse occupied by Turkmen fighters.
And in 2014, award-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh reported that rebel forces staged a sarin gas attack near Damascus at the behest of Turkey as a pretext for international military action in Syria.
Propaganda or truth?
A more extensive investigation should be conducted before decisions are made on the appropriate response from the U.S. and the international community.
What course of action will America’s new president take?
President Trump has said Syria is not America’s war. It could easily become one-- not only against the Assad regime but Russia as well.