As outrage grew over the horrific gas attack in Syria, the Donald Trump administration appeared reluctant to respond initially and when it finally did, it blamed both President Bashar al-Assad and former US president Barack Obama for it, in the same statement.
Calling the chemical attack “reprehensible”, Trump went on to say these “heinous actions” by the Assad regime “are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”
“President Obama said in 2012 that 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 attack.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer built on that, telling reporters, “What’s the point of red lines? America’s credibility was at stake, and I think the President wants to point out that there was a red line and they did cross it.”
Not following through on his “red line” ultimatum has been called one of President Obama’s most egregious foreign policy failures, but the president and the White House’s attempt to blame Obama for the new attack didn’t go down so well.
“Assad launches chemical weapons attack on civilians and White House blames Obama? Cowardly. A new Trump low point,” Nicholas Burns, undersecretary of state in George W Bush’s administration, tweeted.
Trump and the White House statement came hours after the first reports came of the chemical attack which has killed at least 72 people, including 20 children, and after secretary of state Rex Tillerson was noted for ignoring a question about it, triggering concern among foreign policy experts the US might look the other way.
After all, the US had in recent days abandoned the Obama administration’s position that that Assad’s exit was key to lasting peace in Syria — a policy shift affirmed in public statements by Tillerson and US envoy to UN Nikki Haley.