Politics

Syrian Gas Attacks Prompt Washington Finger-Pointing

| by Alex Scarr

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters April 4 that the chemical attack in Syria was the result of "the previous administration's weakness and irresolution."

According to The New York Times, a chemical attack was launched in the rebel-controlled province of Idlib, Syria, killing dozens of people and sickening others. Many of the dead were reported to be children. The U.S. has blamed the Syrian government, particularly President Bashar al-Assad, for conducting the attack.

"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, according to CNN.

"These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."

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A senior State Department official called the Syrian attack a war crime and urged neighboring Iran and Russia to condemn the attacks, as well. Britain, France, and Turkey have joined the U.S. in condemning the attacks, according to The New York Times.

The same State Department official also told The Times that the Trump administration had closed the idea of pairing with the Assad regime in an effort to fight the Islamic State.

Multiple airstrikes were used in deploying the gas, which was dropped in bombs in several locations. The Times reports that the death toll has risen to more than 50 people, with as many as 250 injured.

"President [Barack] 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," Spicer said to reporters April 4.

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Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona also condemned both the Obama and Trump administrations for taking the Assad regime too lightly, and said that this most recent attack is something that has been seen before but ignored, according to CNN.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the focus in Syria is still to allow the Syrian people to choose their own leader, and that they would not focus on ousting Assad. 

"Do we think he's a hindrance? Yes," said Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, to field reporters. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No."

McCain responded to Tillerson's comments about not ousting Assad, calling it "one of the more incredible statements" he's ever heard, and that it was "another disgraceful chapter in American history and it was predictable."

Sources: CNN, The New York Times (2) / Photo credit: Bryan Denton/The New York Times

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