Trump: Russia, Iran Will Pay ‘Big Price’ for Backing ‘Animal Assad’
President excoriated Syrian leader's foreign enablers — and Obama's hollow red line warning — after another suspected chemical weapons attack killed more than 40
President Donald Trump warned there will be a “big price” to pay for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime after a suspected chemical attack on Saturday killed dozens of Syrians in the rebel-held town of Douma.
Trump blamed former President Barack Obama’s refusal to enforce “his stated red line in the sand,” as well as support of Assad by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran for the latest poison gas attack, which killed more than 40 people.
Although an Assad spokesman denied government responsibility for the attack against civilians, it came almost exactly a year after Trump launched an unexpected cruise missile strike against a Syrian air base in retaliation for a 2017 chemical attack that killed dozens in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “Big price … to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”
Obama famously claimed in 2012 that if Assad unleashed chemical weapon attacks against Syrian civilians, such actions would cross a "red line" and presumably result in a lethal U.S. response.
"If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!" Trump tweeted Sunday.
Department of State spokesperson Heather Nauert said that reports of the attack, "if confirmed, are horrifying and demand an immediate response by the international community."
"The United States continues to use all efforts available to hold those who use chemical weapons, in Syria and otherwise, accountable," she said. "The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately."
"Russia, with its unwavering support for the regime, ultimately bears responsibility for these brutal attacks, targeting of countless civilians, and the suffocation of Syria's most vulnerable communities with chemical weapons," Nauert continued. "The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further barbaric chemical weapons attacks."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement Sunday that the U.N. Security Council agreed to hold an emergency meeting Monday to discuss the international response to the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria.
"Yet again, there are reports of what appears to be a chemical weapons attack in Syria. Unfortunately, chemical weapons use to injure and kill innocent Syrian civilians has become all too common," Haley said. "The Security Council has to come together and demand immediate access for first responders, support an independent investigation into what happened, and hold accountable those responsible for this atrocious act."
White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week" that he "wouldn't take anything off the table" when it comes to how Trump will respond to the latest chemical attack — including another missile strike. He also urged the United States' international partners to take more responsibility for their collective response.
"We're looking into the attack at this point," Bossert said. "The pendulum has swung in the wrong direction for too long, and the United States of America has been taken advantage of in their responsibility to provide security for the entire world."
"It is time to move that pendulum back in a way that brings regional partners and others with equities in these matters all around the globe into putting their resources and their treasure and their boys and girls on the line, and not just American troops," Bossert added. "We need regional partnership increased, and we need U.S. presence decreased."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) urged Trump to "live up" to his tough tweets about Syria during an interview Sunday on "This Week," saying that Trump's ultimate response will be "a defining moment in his presidency."
"If he doesn't follow through and live up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran," Graham said. "You need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right."
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press" that there is "a new sheriff in town" in the U.S., who needs to "set the agenda" and make it "very clear that, if we draw a red line in the sand, that we're going to honor that red line."
"The president needs to have the good advice. He needs to know what his options are. And then I think he should act decisively. I think he will hold not just Syria — but I think he will make it very clear that he believes that Russia is also responsible," Rounds said.
"He needs to know what his options are. And then I think he should act decisively."
"You have to be consistent. [Trump] started out with the right policy. He was telling people, 'Look, you're, you're going to be held accountable for what you do.' That's appropriate. It was appropriate a year ago. It would be appropriate today," Rounds continued. "So, let's get everything put together first, and then act decisively."