Washington, D.C. – While speaking to reporters, President Trump said on Monday that he will make a “major decision” regarding a U.S. response to alleged chemical weapons use by the Syrian government in Douma, East Ghouta, in the next 24-48 hours. Trump went on to specify that the decision will be made “very quickly,” likely “by the end of today,” and that “nothing is off the table.”
— Department of State (@StateDept) April 9, 2018
Trump stated at the cabinet meeting:
We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we’ll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours. We are very concerned when a thing like that can happen. This is about humanity. We’re talking about humanity. And it can’t be allowed to happen.
So we’ll be looking at that barbaric act and studying what’s going on. We’re trying to get people in there. As you know, it’s been surrounded. So it’s very hard to get people in because not only has it been hit, it’s been surrounded. And if they’re innocent, why aren’t they allowing people to go in and prove? Because as you know, they’re claiming they didn’t make the attack.
So if it’s Russia, if it’s Syria, if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out and we’ll know the answers quite soon. So we’re looking at that very, very strongly and very seriously.
On Sunday, Trump wrote on Twitter that there would be a “big price to pay” for the alleged attack and called President Bashar al-Assad an “animal.” Trump’s comments echo those of U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who told a reporter when asked about potential military strikes in Syria that he “would not rule out anything right now.”
Both Syria and Russia have denied involvement in the alleged chemical attack. The Russian Foreign Ministry stated on April 9:
False information is being planted about the alleged use of chlorine and other toxic agents by the Syrian government forces. The latest fake news about a chemical attack on Douma was reported yesterday. These reports are again referenced to the notorious White Helmets, which have been proved more than once to be working hand in glove with the terrorists, as well as to other pseudo-humanitarian organisations headquartered in the UK and the US.
As Truth in Media reported on weeks ago, Russia warned of an impending chemical attack by anti-government forces based upon intelligence reports:
Russia’s Chief of the General Staff of Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, warned on Tuesday that Syrian rebels are preparing to utilize chemical weapons— to be blamed on the Syrian government— as a justification for U.S. strikes on Damascus, and cautioned that “in the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles.”
According to Gerasimov, the U.S. plans to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, thus justifying a potential attack on Syrian government facilities in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Gerasimov noted that Russia has intelligence which indicates preparations are underway to stage the use of chemical weapons against civilians, stating that the United States plans to “furnish the so-called ‘evidence’ of the alleged mass civilian deaths through the fault of the Syrian government and the Russian leadership supporting it.”
Allegations of a government sponsored chemical attack in in Syria on Saturday comes as pro-government forces concluded an operation to liberate the region from Islamic militants that had taken control of vast swaths of the country, and only days after Trump publicly stated his intention to get U.S. troops out of Syria.
This entire incident rings similar to what happened in February, when Rex Tillerson blamed Russia for a “chemical attack” alleged to have been undertaken by the Syrian government, only to later admit he didn’t actually know who did it. Trump’s language used last April in response to an alleged chemical attack blamed on Assad’s forces in Idlib province — followed by the U.S. launching Tomahawk cruise missile strikes on Syria—was also similar to his response to this recent chemical weapons incident.
Following the reports of a chemical attack, Israel targeted a Syrian airbase with missiles in Homs on Sunday night, according to the Associated Press; that attack reportedly killed 14 people. NBC News confirmed the report, noting that the U.S. had been made aware of the pending strikes before they were launched.
In a statement released on Monday, the U.S. State Department claimed that victims of the alleged attack in Douma showed symptoms of nerve agent exposure, and called on Syria and Russia to open the area to international monitors, according to RT. Additionally, Monday marks the first day on the job for Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton. Bolton, a former Bush-era ambassador to the UN, is a renowned proponent of increased U.S. military adventurism in the Middle East.