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UK Braced Up For Cyber Attack As Retaliation From Russia Over Attack On Syria |RN

Amanda Cashmore
 

Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria.

Intelligence officers at GCHQ and the Ministry of Defence are on standby to hit back if the Kremlin wages cyber warfare.

Vladimir Putin wearing a suit and tie: Vladimir Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and principles of international law’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Vladimir Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and…

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’.

It is feared vital transport systems, water supplies, gas networks, banks, hospitals and even air traffic control could be hacked by Russia in response to the assault on Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities.

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson acknowledged the threat yesterday, saying the UK had to take ‘every possible precaution’

Intelligence sources also fear the retaliation could involve the online release of so-called ‘kompromat’ – compromising information on MPs or other public figures.

 

The Syria crisis will dominate the return of Parliament today, with Mrs May facing the prospect of MPs voting against her decision to join Friday night’s US-led strikes to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons in Douma.

In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’.

This image shows areas targeted in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition in response to Syria's use of chemical weapons© Getty This image shows areas targeted in Syria by the U.S.-led coalition in response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons

And she will invoke the Salisbury poisonings, saying that military action was essential to help deter any future use of chemical weapons ‘on the streets of the UK’.

On Saturday, Russia warned of ‘consequences’ after the air strikes.

Moscow has already launched repeated online assaults against the UK and intelligence chiefs fear they have the capability to hack into certain critical systems. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think we have to take every possible precaution.

a close up of a truck: Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Britain was braced for a Russian cyber attack last night as officials warned of swift retaliation for the military strikes on Syria

‘When you look at what Russia has done, not just in this country, in Salisbury, attacks on TV stations, on the democratic processes, on critical national infrastructure – of course, we have to be very, very cautious indeed.’ A National Cyber Security Centre spokesman added: ‘We are always vigilant to attacks wherever they come from and we have a full spectrum of capabilities to draw on if required.’

Intelligence experts accept that the most likely response from Russia will be through covert cyber warfare. This would be on top of an avalanche of fake news planted by Moscow-run online trolls.

Last week, Ciaran Martin, director of the cybersecurity centre, warned that Russia had already repeatedly ‘hit’ the UK’s critical infrastructure. This includes vital systems such as water supplies, electricity and gas networks, hospitals, banks and transport.

Theresa May posing for the camera: In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited In a robust defence of her actions, the Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs insisting that Britain had to strike Syria ‘in our national interest’

He said Kremlin attacks on computer networks were ‘part of a wider campaign to destabilise’ the UK.

‘Our critical infrastructure gets hit frequently by Russia and it is not always clear for what purpose,’ he said.

‘As a government as a whole we want to counter hostile Russian intent towards the democratic system and we have got all sorts of different parts of government working on that.’

Whitehall sources said yesterday Russia was carrying out cyber attacks against the UK ‘all the time’. One added: ‘What is clear, both offensive and defensive cyber capabilities are now a reality.’

a man wearing a suit and tie: In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences'© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left…

And one security source told The Sunday Times: ‘We know what’s in the Russian playbook – kompromat-type material – we’re all prepared for that.’

In the hours after the strikes, Moscow’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, said: ‘The worst apprehensions have come true. Our warnings have been left unheard. A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.

‘All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris. Insulting the president of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.’ Putin condemned the strikes as an ‘act of aggression against a sovereign state’ and accused the US and its allies of violating the ‘norms and principles of international law’. Putin even accused America of having ‘staged a chemical attack against civilians’ as a ‘pretext’ for the attack.

Evacuations continue in Syria's Eastern Ghouta         © Getty Evacuations continue in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta

One Russian politician even compared Mr Trump to Adolf Hitler. Alexander Sherin said he ‘can be called Adolf Hitler No 2 of our time – because you see, he even chose the same time [of night] that Hitler chose to attack the Soviet Union’.

A Russian resolution at the UN Security Council condemning the air strikes was soundly defeated on Saturday night. Moscow gained support from only two countries, China and Bolivia. Four council members – Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Peru and Equatorial Guinea – abstained, while the remaining eight members voted against.

At the same time, Mrs May has faced considerable criticism for not recalling Parliament to gain approval for joining the US-led action.

Tory MPs returning from recess this week have been told they have to be in the Commons today and tomorrow in case there is a vote on her handling of the Syria crisis.

Last night, however, Downing Street officials said they believed a Commons vote was unlikely to take place – although they did not rule out the possibility that Opposition parties could force one later in the week.

Mrs May will tell MPs: ‘Let me be absolutely clear. We have acted because it is in our national interest to do so.’   (The Daily Mail)

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Trump To Impose New Sanctions On Russia Over Syria Gas Attack |RN

By PETER BAKER
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: The Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday, the third round enacted by the administration against Russia in the past four weeks. © Tom Brenner/The New York Times The Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday, the third round enacted by the administration against Russia in the past four weeks.

 

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions against Russia on Monday to punish it for enabling the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons in its civil war, the latest in a series of actions by both sides underscoring the deterioration in relations between Moscow and the West.

The sanctions, coming shortly after American-led airstrikes against facilities linked to Syria’s chemical weapons, are meant to signal that the United States holds responsible not just the Damascus government of President Bashar al-Assad but also his patrons in Russia and Iran. President Trump has vowed that Syria’s allies will pay a “big price” for permitting his use of poison gas.

The sanctions were announced on Sunday by Nikki R. Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations and the administration’s leading public voice excoriating Russia in recent days. “They will go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to Assad and chemical weapons use,” she said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “And so I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message and our hope is that they listen to it.”

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018.
The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a meeting at Russia's request to discuss military strikes carried out by the United States, France and Britain on Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack. Russia circulated a draft resolution calling for condemnation of the military action, but Britain's ambassador said the strikes were 'both right and legal' to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Syria.
 / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL        (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images) © Getty US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley speaks during a UN Security Council meeting, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 14, 2018. The UN Security Council on Saturday opened a…

Mr Trump has tried through most of his presidency to forge a friendship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and avoid criticizing him personally even as a special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, investigated whether his campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 election. But in recent weeks, Mr Trump’s administration has taken increasing action against Russia, and the president singled out Mr Putin over Syria’s use of chemical weapons on Twitter and again in a televised speech on Friday night.

New sanctions on Monday would be the third round enacted by the Trump administration against Russia in the past four weeks. Last month the administration targeted Russian companies and individuals for intervening in the 2016 election and mounting cyber attacks against Western facilities. It followed that this month with penalties against Mr Putin’s inner circle, singling out some of Russia’s richest men and top government officials.

The administration also expelled 60 Russian diplomats and intelligence officers and closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy living in Britain.

The strikes against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical attack that killed dozens in the Damascus suburb of Douma were designed to avoid provoking Russia into a response. By hitting just three targets and limiting the attack to a single night, the Trump administration seemed to keep it limited enough not to compel Moscow to lash back.

But Ms Haley said the administration was determined to make Moscow pay a price for supporting Mr Assad, noting that it had vetoed six United Nations resolutions related to Syria and chemical weapons.

“Assad knew that Russia had its back,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Assad knew that Russia would cover for him at the United Nations and Assad got reckless and he used it in a way that was far more aggressive.”    (The New York Times)

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Theresa May Gives Strong Signal UK Could Back Military Intervention After Call With Donald Trump (Video)

By Gordon Rayner, Political Editor and Ben Riley-Smith, US Editor
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May              © Reuters Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May

 

Theresa May has given her strongest signal yet that Britain would support President Donald Trump in military action against the Syrian regime as the two leaders resolved “not to allow the use of chemical weapons to continue”.

The Prime Minister spoke to both Mr Trump and the French President Emmanuel Macron by telephone during which all three agreed that President Bashar al-Assad had shown “total disregard” for international laws against the use of such weapons.

A Trump official upped the diplomatic tension by describing the chemical attack on Douma, Syria, as “genocide” and saying a military response was “appropriate”.

Related: Theresa May condemns ‘barbaric attack’ in Syria ( ITN News )

 

Mr Macron said the three countries would decide “within days” how to respond and discussed the possibility of hitting Syria’s “chemical capacities”. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “All options are on the table.”

It came as Russia used its veto power at the UN Security Council on Tuesday evening against a US resolution to create a new expert body to determine responsibility for Syria chemical weapons attacks, a move expected to increase the likelihood of US military intervention.

a man and a woman looking at the camera                     © Provided by The Telegraph

Whitehall sources suggest Mrs May would prefer to have the backing of Parliament in any decision to join a military response against Syria, but with both Mr Trump and Mr Macron eager to strike swiftly, that option is unlikely to be open to the Prime Minister.

The Telegraph has learnt that no plans have been put in place to recall MPs before Monday, when they will return after the Easter recess, suggesting MrsMay has resigned herself to taking the decision in conjunction with her Cabinet, rather than seeking the support of the Commons.

a man wearing a suit and tie                      © Provided by The Telegraph

Downing Street issued a more cautious statement that the White House, in which Number 10 said that the chemical attack “if confirmed” would represent fresh evidence of Assad’s “appalling cruelty”.

The White House’s version of the conversation between Mrs May and MrTrump contained no such caveat, saying simply that “both leaders condemned Syrian President Assad’s vicious disregard for human life”.

Decisions on deploying the Armed Forces are covered by Royal prerogative, meaning there is no legal requirement for Mrs May to seek the permission of Parliament to take part in air strikes.

A precedent has in recent years been established for giving Parliament a vote on military interventions, but Mrs May is aware that David Cameron suffered an embarrassing defeat over military action in Syria in 2013.

           © getty

Boris Johnson is among those who believe there is no need for a vote, while Tom Tugendhat, Tory chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said there was a “clear case for action”.

Tony Blair, the former prime minister who set a precedent in 2003 for Parliament having a vote on military action abroad, said there was no need for a vote in the case of air strikes, rather than using ground forces.

This photo released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows smoke rising after Syrian government airstrikes hit in the town of Douma, in eastern Ghouta region east of Damascus, Syria, Saturday, April. 7, 2018. Syrian government forces pressed their offensive against the last rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta near the capital Damascus on Saturday under the cover of airstrikes as shelling of civilian areas on both sides claimed more lives, state media and opposition activists said. (Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets via AP)© The Associated Press This photo released by the Syrian Civil Defense White Helmets, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows smoke rising after Syrian government…

 

But Julian Lewis, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence select committee, said that while Governments might have to act first and seek MPs’ approval later if the UK was under attack, a strike on another country was another matter, and Tory MP Bob Seely said the “right to debate should rest with Parliament”.

More than 40 MPs from opposition parties signed a motion calling for a vote on military action and Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, called for a political solution in Syria rather than “megaphone diplomacy across the floor of the UN Security Council” between the US and Russia.

Mrs May chaired a meeting of the National Security Council, which includes the heads of Britain’s intelligence agencies, the Armed Forces and senior ministers, but Downing Street refused to discuss what it had decided.

A team of inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is on its way to Douma and Mrs May said: “Obviously we are working urgently with our allies and partners to assess what has happened on the ground.

“If this is the responsibility of Assad’s regime in Syria then it’s yet another example of the brutality and brazen disregard for their people that they show.”

However, President Trump appears to be in no mood to wait for the inspectors’ findings, having said on Monday that he would decide within 48 hours how to respond. On Tuesday he cancelled a planned trip to Latin America in order to prepare to US response to the chemical attack.

Mr Trump is under growing pressure from Republican senators to follow through his tough rhetoric over the Syrian chemical attack with a military response.

The United Nations Security Council meet and hear remarks from U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura via video broadcast, Monday April 9, 2018 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)© The Associated Press The United Nations Security Council meet and hear remarks from U.N. Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura via video broadcast, Monday, April 9, 2018, at U.N. headquarters. (AP…

Lindsay Graham, the Republican senator for South Carolina who regularly plays golf with Mr Trump, said that Mr Assad himself should be a target in any air strikes.

Mr Graham said that if Mr Trump failed to launch an attack it would be “the biggest mistake of his presidency”, leaving America looking “unreliable in the eyes of our allies”.

Kay Hutchison, US Permanent Representative to Nato, said: “We would call on Russia to do something. They are propping up Assad. They are helping him. They should do something to stop this kind of genocide. I think a military response is appropriate.”

Asked how Assad’s use of chemical weapons could be stopped, she said: “I think we do everything we can with the tools we have. I believe a military response, taking out perhaps some of the places where perhaps these missions are taking place, with the bases from which they are flying to drop chemical weapons, I think that is an appropriate response.

“The President is talking to other allies, I hope they will come to an agreement on a concerted effort.”

A Downing Street spokesman said of Mrs May’s calls with President Trump and President Macron: “They agreed that reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria were utterly reprehensible and if confirmed, represented further evidence of the Assad regime’s appalling cruelty against its own people and total disregard for its legal obligations not to use these weapons.

“They agreed that the international community needed to respond to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

“They agreed they would continue working closely together and with international partners to ensure that those responsible were held to account.”

Mr Johnson criticised Russia after it vetoed an US-drafted resolution at the United Nations to create a new body to determine responsibility for the suspected Syria chemical weapons attack.

The Foreign Secretary described the move as “hugely disappointing” and accused Russia of “holding the Syrian people to political ransom”.   (The Telegraph)

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(Video) Trump Says Syria Decision Imminent As Russia Warns Of ‘Grave Consequences’

Julian Borger
Trump says US will ‘forcefully’ respond to Syria ‘chemical weapons attack’

 Video provided by Press Association

The US and Russia moved closer to a direct confrontation over Syria on Monday night as Donald Trump said a decision was imminent on a response to a chemical weapon attack on Saturday, and Moscow warned that any US military action would have “grave repercussions”.

U.S. President Donald Trump receives a briefing from senior military leadership accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and new National Security Adviser John Bolton (R) at the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. April 9, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria© REUTERS U.S. President Donald Trump receives a briefing from senior military leadership accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and new National Security Adviser John Bolton (R) at the Cabinet Room of…

Trump met US generals in the White House cabinet room on Monday evening to discuss how to react to the poison gas attack in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, reported to have killed more than 40 people and seriously affected hundreds.

The US and its allies have accused the regime of Bashar al-Assad of carrying out the attack, and Trump himself said Vladimir Putin, by backing Assad, bore some responsibility.

Vassily Nebenzia, center, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, addresses an emergency UN security council meeting in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria at United Nations headquarters in New York on Monday.© EPA Vassily Nebenzia, centre, Russia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, addresses an emergency UN security council meeting in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria at…

 

Russia has claimed there was no chemical weapons attack on Douma or, if there was, it was staged by Western-backed rebels.

“So we’re going to make a decision tonight, or very shortly thereafter,” Trump told reporters as he entered the meeting, accompanied by his new national security advisor, John Bolton. “And you’ll be hearing the decision. But we can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed … we can’t let that happen.”

“We have a lot of options, militarily,” the president added. “And we’ll be letting you know pretty soon. Probably after the fact.”

President Donald Trump, fourth from right, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. Trump is flanked by Vice President Mike Pence, left, and national security adviser John Bolton, right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)© ASSOCIATED PRESS President Donald Trump, fourth from right, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. Trump is…

The meeting ended after less than an hour. Asked how his first day was going, Bolton replied: “What could go wrong?”

Before meeting the generals, Trump called Macron, who has also threatened military action if the Syrian regime is proven to have carried out a chemical weapons attack. The White House issued a statement saying the US and French presidents would “continue their coordination on responding to Syria’s atrocious use of chemical weapons on April 7”.

The sharply escalating tensions between the US and Russia boiled over at an angry session of the UN security council session on Monday.

The French UN envoy, Francois Delattre, said the symptoms of the victims suggested that they had been exposed to “a powerful neurotoxic agent, combined with chlorine to enhance its lethal effect”. Delattre added that only Syrian forces had the means and the motive to make such weapons and carry out such an attempt.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Monday, April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)© ASSOCIATED PRESS United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks during a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Monday, April 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The US ambassador, Nikki Haley, lashed out at Moscow for its unstinting backing of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian leader. She referred to Moscow as the “Russian regime, whose hands are all covered in the blood of Syrian children”.

Haley’s Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, complained that “Russia is being unpardonably threatened” and claimed both that Russian investigators had found no evidence of a chemical attack in Douma, and that it had been staged by rebels, trained in carrying out false-flag provocations by US special forces.

A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attack, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still image from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. White Helmets/Reuters TV via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.© Thomson Reuters A man is washed following alleged chemical weapons attacks, in what is said to be Douma, Syria in this still images from video obtained by Reuters on April 8, 2018. White Helmets/Reuters…

“There was no chemical weapons attack,” Nebenzia told the council. “Through the relevant channels we already conveyed to the US that armed forces under mendacious pretext against Syria – where, at the request of the legitimate government of a country, Russian troops have been deployed – could lead to grave repercussions.”

A few hours earlier, Donald Trump said his administration was on the brink of deciding its response to the Douma attack. “We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we’ll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours,” he said at a cabinet meeting. “We are very concerned when a thing like that can happen. This is about humanity … and it can’t be allowed to happen.”

Pressed by reporters, Trump went further, saying: “We’ll be making that decision very quickly, probably by the end of today. But we cannot allow atrocities like that. Cannot allow it.”

Trump ordered airstrikes against a Syrian airbase after a previous chemical weapons attack, in April last year. The latest use of poison gasprovoked from Trump unprecedented direct criticism of Putin, something he had previously been at pains to avoid.

Asked if Putin bore responsibility for the Douma attack, Trump replied: “Yeah, he may. And if he does, it’s going to be very tough.

“Everybody is going to pay a price,” Trump said. “He will. Everybody will.”

Addressing the council chamber by video, the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, expressed concern that the Syrian conflict was becoming a threat to peace and security far beyond the region, pointing to the major powers being drawn into the war, and pointing to airstrikes on a Syrian regime airbase east of Homs on Sunday, which are widely believed to have been carried out by Israel and aimed principally at Iranian forces there. Tehran has reported that four of its advisers were killed in the airstrikes.

At the security council session, the US proposed a resolution demanding a return to an independent UN mechanism to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria, along the lines of an earlier investigative panel that Russia dissolved by vetoing its continued work in November.

“We have reached the moment when the world must see justice done,” Haley said. “History will record this as the moment when the UN security council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria. Either way, the United States will respond.”

In his address, Nebenzia suggested a visit to Douma by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) might be possible under Syrian and Russian military protection. The UK envoy to the UN, Karen Pierce, said the Russian proposal was “an offer worth pursuing” but she added that OPCW inspectors would have to have complete freedom of action and of access.     (The Guardian)

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Trump Blames Chemical Attack In Syria On Obama Administration’s ‘Weakness, Irresolution’

 

Pamela Engel
Donald Trump Barack Obama /&nbsp;<span>REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque</span>© Provided by Business Insider Donald Trump Barack Obama / REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump released a statement Tuesday blaming a chemical attack in Syria on Obama administration’s policies.

Dozens of people were reportedly killed on Tuesday when a hospital treating civilians injured in chemical attacks was bombed. Activists described the attack as among the worst in the country’s six-year war.

“Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world,” Trump said in a statement. “These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution.”

Trump cited President Barack Obama’s inaction after issuing a “red line” in 2012 that suggested that the US would intervene militarily if the Assad regime used chemical weapons.

When evidence emerged that Syrian forces did use chemical weapons to attack civilians, the US declined to use military action in retaliation, instead opting to broker a deal in which the Assad regime agreed to remove chemical weapons from Syria.

“President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,” Trump said. “The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

But it doesn’t appear that the Trump administration is planning to urge Assad to step down. And Trump didn’t seem to want Obama to enforce the red line at the time, tweeting in 2013, “AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA — IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters while he was in Turkey last week that the “longer-term status” of Assad would “be decided by the Syrian people.” And US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told reporters that the Trump administration’s “priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out.”

The remark signaled a shift in America’s official position on the Syrian strongman. Though they were criticized for failing to act against Assad, Obama and former Secretary of State John Kerry had long called for Assad to step down in a monitored transition of power.

Tillerson released his own statement on the chemical attack on Tuesday, saying the US “strongly condemns” such actions.

“While we continue to monitor the terrible situation, it is clear that this is how Bashar al-Assad operates: with brutal, unabashed barbarism,” Tillerson said in the statement, which stopped short of calling on him to leave power.

Tillerson instead shifted responsibility to Russia and Iran, two of Assad’s biggest allies, saying they “bear great moral responsibility for these deaths.”

“Those who defend and support him, including Russia and Iran, should have no illusions about Assad or his intentions,” Tillerson said in the statement. “Anyone who uses chemical weapons to attack his own people shows a fundamental disregard for human decency and must be held accountable.”

Tillerson called on Russia and Iran to “exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.”

(Business Insider)

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