On Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that “steps are underway” on an international coalition to force Bashar Assad out of power. Meanwhile, President Trump was being briefed on military options for Syria – though the specific steps the U.S. and its allies might take in response to the latest deadly chemical weapons attack remain unclear.
Following President Trump’s remarks in the Rose Garden, which made a clear statement that Assad’s chemical attack would not be tolerated, Tillerson sternly said Russia should “consider carefully” its support for the Assad regime. He also called for an international effort to defeat ISIS in Syria, as well as stabilize the country and ultimately work with partners through a political process that leads to Assad leaving power.
Tillerson was asked if the U.S. would organize a coalition to remove Assad. He said: “Those steps are underway.”
“It’s a serious matter, it requires a serious response,” Tillerson said, adding the recent attack “violates all previous U.N. resolutions, violates international norms and long-held agreements.”
Tillerson made his remarks in West Palm Beach, Fla., after welcoming China’s President Xi Jinping for a two-day summit with Trump. President Trump, who was on his way to Mar-a-lago, also said the attack “shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
For years, the Obama administration pursued a strategy similar to that described Thursday by Tillerson, which resulted in very little success. Trump has not commented on whether he would go further than his predecessor in using military force.
Fox News reports that President Trump was set to receive a briefing Friday from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on military options that could be taken in retaliation for this week’s chemical weapons strike.
According to senior military officials, McMaster and Mattis traveled to Florida to attend meetings with Trump and visiting Chinese President Xi and planned to discuss possible military action Thursday afternoon.
Currently, there are two U.S. Navy warships in the eastern Mediterranean which could be used to strike Syria if an attack was requested.
Senator John McCain said he spoke with the President and confirmed to reporters Trump’s plan “to consult with General McMaster and General Mattis and make a decision there.”
“The message from the United States must be that this will not stand. We must show that no foreign power can or will protect Assad now. He must pay a punitive cost for this horrific attack,” McCain said.
On the other hand, there are many people who want Trump to be cautious with his decision to retaliate. Skeptics such as Ron Paul and Alex Jones claim that this attack is a “false flag”, and do not want it to result in the United States entering into a war with Syria.
“It doesn’t make any sense for Assad under these conditions to all of a sudden use poison gases – I think there’s zero chance he would have done this deliberately,” Ron Paul said.
They argue that Assad has nothing to gain by attacking his own people. The Syrian President is finally regaining territory from ISIS after six years of bloodshed.
The death toll from the attacks on Tuesday has reached as many as 72 Syrian civilians, including women and children.