President Vladimir Putin and President Bashar al-Assad

Trump’s Response To Syria Chemical Attack Raises Questions About Stance On Assad

In a written statement issued from the White House, President Donald Trump spoke out against the brutal chemical bombings that took place in Syria on Tuesday, specifically calling out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for his alleged role in targeting civilians. Trump was not shy about placing blame domestically as well, citing the Obama administration’s lack of involvement as one contributing factor that led to the attacks.

“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” read the response, which White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer shared with reporters on Tuesday.

Trump’s criticism of his predecessor came in spite of his inconsistent public stance as to whether or not the United States should intervene in the ongoing civil war in Syria. Following previous chemical attacks in 2013, Trump took to Twitter to side with Congress’ rejection of Obama’s request to bomb Syria.

“What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long-term conflict? Obama needs Congressional approval.”

The president’s contradicting statements have caused some controversy, and have raised even more questions as to what the White House’s strategy when dealing with the crisis in Syria moving forward. This ambiguity is further fueled by Trump’s expressed interest in establishing a ‘friendly’ diplomatic relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, another controversial figure involved in Syria’s ongoing civil war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) receives Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting in Moscow’s Kremlin, January 25, 2005. [Image by Salah Malkawi/Getty Images]

While Russian representatives have spent recent years attempting to assure the rest of the world of their lack of unflinching allegiance to Syria’s unpopular leader, Putin has consistently contributed large amounts of military power to the administration now known for the bombing of their own civilians. In return, Russia has enjoyed the security of their Syria-based naval port, though Russian officials maintain that the primary goal of their armed support for President Bashar al-Assad is to combat radical extremist groups. Trump has expressed a specific interest in working with Putin in fighting the war on terror as well, though critics have argued that Putin and Assad’s unified actions in the civil war in Syria have actually focused on targeting civilian activists and rebels under the guise of counter-terrorism efforts.

In the past, President Putin has also been responsible for issuing crucial vetoes within the UN that have prevented other countries, included the United Staes, from intervening in the war crimes being allegedly committed by the Assad regime in Syria. The vetoes became one of the primary factors which tied the hands of the Obama administration and led to the inaction that then-businessman Donald Trump advocated for in 2013, but criticized through White House statements regarding Tuesday’s chemical attacks.

Marco Rubio speaking against Bashar al-Assad
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaks during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol April 5, 2017 in Washington, DC. [Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]

With all of this taking place mid-FBI investigation, leaders within the United States on both sides of the political aisle have been quick to speak out in criticism of Putin’s coziness with the Assad regime. In response to Russia explicitly coming out in solidarity with the accusation that Syrian rebels were responsible for the heinous chemical attacks, Florida Senator Marco Rubio issued a series of tweets harshly criticizing Russia’s president.

“The #Putin regime blatantly lies about #SyriaGasAttack Putin is an accomplice in this war crime committed by Assad,” read the former Republican presidential nominee’s first response, followed 40 minutes later by another tweet referring to today’s scheduled emergency UN meeting as a “moment of truth” for the future of Russia’s support in Syria.

The criticism at home has not just been limited to Vladimir Putin, however. Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the most famously vocal opponents of President Trump, was not shy in his bashing of the new administration’s Syria policy. In an interview with CNN’s Alisyn Camerota on New Day, McCain expressed disgust at the decision to no longer actively prioritize helping end the war in Syria following the chemical attacks that left over 300 civilians wounded.

“Bashar Assad and his friends, the Russians, take note of what Americans say,” the Republican leader elaborated. “I’m sure they took note of what our Secretary of State said just the other day that the Syrian people would be determining their own future themselves – one of the more incredible statements I’ve ever heard.”

Despite his criticisms of the previous administration’s inaction, President Trump, as well as his cabinet leaders, have expressed no specific intention to get involved following the recent chemical attacks in Syria. With his inconsistent past opinions, as well as the contradicting views of his allies both internationally and at home, it is unclear where the new president plans to steer the direction of the United States’ influence in Syria.

[Featured Image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]

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