The Trump Administration on Tuesday condemned a chemical weapons attack in Syria, accusing the government of strongman Bashar Assad of being behind the deadly attack that killed dozens — and blaming former President Barack Obama, too.
In statement Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the attack “reprehensible” and “intolerable,” but declined to specify how the U.S. would respond. He also pushed some of the responsibility onto Obama, who left office 75 days ago, for his administration’s unfulfilled 2012 “red line” warning to the Assad regime on the use of chemical weapons.
“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Spicer said. “These heinous actions by the [Assad] regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable act.”
The attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, comes just days after the Trump Administration expressed an acceptance of a “political reality” that Assad’s rule will not be coming to an end anytime soon, after his regime’s forces have crushed moderate opposition forces. The Obama Administration had called for Assad’s exit as a precondition to any Syrian peace deal. Spicer dismissed the notion that there was any correlation between the White House’s comments and the chemical weapons attack. “It’s not a comfort level with Assad, it’s a political reality,” he repeated.
Trump was briefed by national security officials Tuesday morning on the attack, Spicer said. He added that the “statement speaks for itself,” and indicated that the U.S. sees no evidence of Russian involvement in the strike.
Asked why the White House felt the need to highlight the Obama Administration’s Syria policy — the former administration’s most glaring overseas failure — in a statement condemning a war crime, Spicer said it was important to making clear that the Trump Administration has “a different posture” with respect to Syria. He declined to elaborate on the meaning of that, noting Trump has stated he sees value in being unpredictable overseas.
He also declined to say whether the U.S. would respond to the chemical weapons attack. “I would not want to get ahead of the President at this point,” Spicer said.