Trump says ‘forceful’ response on Syria imminent; Russia warns of grave repercussions
ABC News(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump has vowed a “forceful” response to an alleged chemical attack on Syrian civilians in a rebel-held neighborhood outside the capital Damascus on Saturday.
As western leaders mull a response, Trump discussed possible military action that could be taken during a Cabinet meeting with military leaders on Monday.
Options on the table include limited military strikes, such as the Tomahawk missiles launched from a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Mediterranean targeting a Syrian airstrip almost exactly one year ago after an alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib that killed more than 100 people.
“We have a lot of options, militarily,” the president said after the Cabinet meeting. “And we’ll be letting you know pretty soon — probably after the fact.”
When asked by reporters after the meeting if Russian President Vladimir Putin, who supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, bore responsibility for the attack, Trump said, “Yeah he may, and if he does, it’s going to be very tough. Everybody is going to pay a price.”
Trump’s third national security adviser, John Bolton, was in the room during the Cabinet meetings on his first day in office.
It’s thought that any U.S. military response is unlikely to include significant numbers of ground forces. In March, Trump signaled he wanted a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, taking observers by surprise.
Western representatives at the United Nations issued strong words Monday condemning the suspected attack in Douma, thought to have killed dozens of people and around 500 were treated with symptoms consistent with exposure to nerve agent.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Russia has the “blood of Syrian children” on its hands.
“History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria,” she said. “Either way, the United States will respond.”
However the Russian Ambassador to the U.N., Vassily Nebenzia, said the chemical attack was staged and warned that any American military response in Syria would have “grave repercussions.”
Nebenzia said Russian experts had entered Douma on Monday and did not find any traces of chemical substances used against civilians.
And the Syrian envoy, Bashar Jaafari, said that Syria had no chemical weapons stockpiles.
“We condemn their use, at any time and under any circumstances,” he said.
Trump also discussed the situation in Syria with French President Emmanuel Macron later on Monday, with both leaders expressing a desire for a “firm response.”
France already vowed a response in line with the United States in a previous call on Sunday.
According to the Syrian American Medical Society, there have been 10 chemical attacks recorded by activists and doctors in Syria this year, including the incident in Douma on Saturday.
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