Syria Gas Attack: Red Line Of Obama Crossed, Trump Responds

A gas attack in Syria that has left more than 70 people dead has been widely condemned by the international community, triggering an emergency UN Security Council meeting. It is another example of Syria crossing a “red line” that was drawn by former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2012, a threat that is yet to deter the Syrian regime.

The “red line” was cited by Obama’s successor in the White House, Donald Trump, on Wednesday. The current U.S. President said that the attack “crosses many, many lines,” and the U.S. Vice President, Mike Pence, told Fox News, “all options are on the table,” reports ABC News

So, what is the red line of Obama, how did this Syria gas attack cross it, and how will Donald Trump respond?

A man holds the bodies of his two babies who are wrapped in white cloths
A Syrian man cradles his two infants who died in this week's gas attack [Image by Alaa Alyousef/AP Images]

Obama Draws Red Line Over Syria

Obama’s red line on Syria was drawn back in 2012.

The then-president said “a red line for us is when we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”

Yet that same year Assad ‘s forces killed nearly 1,500 people in a chemical weapons attack, according to the Business Insider. In response, Obama requested congressional approval for military intervention, which was refused. This has led Pamela Engel to accuse the former president of getting “cold feet” over Syria.

So, what really happened to Obama’s red line?

In 2012, American negotiators were busy trying to secure the Iranian nuclear deal, according to Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal. He claims that as Syria was “Iran’s closest Arab ally,” the Iran deal could only be pursued if the U.S. didn’t take military action against Syria’s President Assad.

The Iran deal was called by Engel “the crowning foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration,” as it led to Iran reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium and halting its research and development of a nuclear arsenal.

Obama’s actions in 2012 and afterward appear to suggest that his priority was achieving this Iran deal more than standing by his “red line” on Syria. In the end, the Obama administration brokered an agreement whereby Syria’s government agreed to destroy their arsenal of weapons capable of being used in future gas attacks. This arguably fell short of Obama’s promise of “enormous consequences” if Syria crossed his “red line.”