US President Donald Trump has blamed former President Barack Obama for “weakness” that he says led to a reprehensible chemical weapons attack by Syria’s government, while his secretary of state said Russia and Iran bore moral responsible for the deaths.
In a series of strongly worded statements, Trump’s administration sought to convey a forceful response to Tuesday’s attack in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib. Trump said the attack against innocent people mustn’t be “ignored by the civilised world”.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said, in a reference to Obama’s failure to strike in 2013 after saying a chemical attack by Assad would cross a US red line.
The death toll for how many people died in the apparent government attack on the Idlib town of Khan Sheikhoun vaires. The local health authority says more than 50, while other aid agencies say 58 to at least 100 dead, with many more people injured.
Trump left it to his top diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, to assign at least some blame to Russia and Iran, Assad’s most powerful allies.
Tillerson said the nations bear moral responsibility because they have declared themselves to be the guarantors of a ceasefire they helped broker in Astana, Kazakhstan.
In a statement he said Iran and Russia shouldn’t have any illusions about Assad or his intentions. Tillerson said anyone using chemical weapons to attack his own people must be held accountable for a “fundamental disregard for human decency”.
Tillerson said the chemical weapons attack makes clear that Assad operates “with brutal, unabashed barbarism”.
Syria needs a “genuine ceasefire” and that anyone supporting armed combatants there must help ensure compliance.
The United Nations said it isn’t in a position to independently verify reports of a chemical attack in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province but Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “deeply disturbed” at the incident.