Trump on Response to Syria Chemical Weapons Attack: ‘We Have a Lot of Options, Militarily’

By Patrick Goodenough | April 9, 2018 | 9:57 PM EDT

President Trump and his new national security advisor, John Bolton, at a meeting at the White House on Monday, April 9, 2018. (Screen capture: YouTube)

( – President Trump met with senior military leaders on Monday night to discuss what to do about the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria, telling reporters beforehand, “we have a lot of options, militarily, and we’ll be letting you know pretty soon – probably after the fact.”

“We’re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus,” Trump said. “And it will be met, and it will be met forcefully.”

Flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and new national security advisor John Bolton, and with Defense Secretary James Mattis seated opposite, the president said, “we’re going to make a decision tonight, or very shortly thereafter, and you’ll be hearing the decision.”

Referring to Saturday’s attack in rebel-held Douma in Eastern Ghouta near the capital, which according to medical relief organizations cost some 70 lives, Trump said the United States could not allow such atrocities to take place.

“We can’t let that happen, in our world we can’t let that happen, especially when we’re able to – because of the power of the United States, because of the power of our country, we’re able to stop it.”

Trump thanked Bolton for taking up the top national security post, saying “he picked the right day” to start.

In response to questions asked before reporters were ushered out, Trump said the U.S. was getting “very good clarity” on who was responsible for the chemical weapons attack.

“We have a lot of options, militarily, and we’ll be letting you know pretty soon – probably after the fact.”

‘Only a monster does this’

Russia, accused of enabling the actions of its ally in Damascus, reiterated its denials that the Assad regime had again used chemical weapons against civilians in its effort to defeat the challenge to its rule.

“Our military currently in Syria and the Syrian government have warned countless times that a serious provocation is being concocted, aimed at blaming Damascus for using chemical weapons against civilians,” the TASS news agency quoted Defense Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying during a press conference Monday.

Lavrov said Russia was open to an impartial investigation, but that the U.S. and its allies had already prejudged the matter.

“When the investigation is intended to come at a predetermined point – that is, it was done by Assad with Putin’s support – there are no grounds for a serious discussion.”

During an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley had strong words for the perpetrators of the attack.

“Only a monster does this,” she said. “Only a monster targets civilians and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded, no hospitals to save their lives, no doctors or medicine to ease their pain.”

She warned that as a result of Security Council inaction and Russian obstructionism, the use of chemical weapons was becoming “normalized.”

“The United States is determined to see that the monster who dropped chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account,” she said. “You heard what the president of the United States has said about this. Meetings are ongoing. Important decisions are being weighed even as we speak.”

“We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice. The great evil of chemical weapons use that once unified the world in opposition, is on the verge of becoming the new normal,” Haley said. “The international community must not let this happen.”

“History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria,” she concluded. “Either way, the United States will respond.”


Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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