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Trump, Haley Suggest Possible U.S. Shift on Syria After Gas Attack

President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the United Nations suggested on Wednesday that a reported chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria’s Idlib Province may prompt a more forceful American approach to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

At a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan, Trump said that Tuesday’s chemical attack had “crossed many, many lines” and that his view toward the Assad regime had “changed very much” as a result, Politico reported.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump told reporters. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal … that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.”

Trump also deviated from remarks made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last week that “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” indicating that the administration wasn’t likely to take action against the regime. Stressing that he was very affected by “that attack on children,” the president said, “It’s very, very possible — and I will tell you, it’s already happened — that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who assumed presidency of the UN Security Council this month, similarly told an emergency session of the council that Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack marked “a new low, even for the barbaric Assad regime.”

Haley began her remarks by recalling that the Security Council had a Joint Investigative Mechanism, which determined that “the Syrian government committed chemical weapons acts against their own people three different times.” The U.S. ambassador said that there were times where action, not just talk, was necessary. “This Security Council thinks of itself as a defender of peace, security, and human rights,” Haley said. “We will not deserve that description if we do not rise to action today.”

Haley also specifically faulted Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council with veto power, for preventing the council from taking action against Assad a few weeks ago. She noted that “Assad has no incentive to stop using chemical weapons” if he can count on Russian vetoes at the Security Council to defend him.

“The truth is that Assad, Russia, and Iran have no interest in peace,” Haley elaborated. After committing “untold atrocities,” Assad “doesn’t want to take part in a meaningful political process. Iran has reinforced Assad’s military, and Russia has shielded Assad from UN sanctions.”

The U.S. regards Tuesday’s chemical attack “as a disgrace at the highest level,” Haley added.

The question members of this Council must ask themselves is this: If we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say for our chances of ending the broader conflict in Syria? What does that say of our ability to bring relief to the Syrian people? If we are not able to enforce resolutions preventing the use of chemical weapons, what does that say about our effectiveness in this institution?

[Photo: White House / YouTube ]