Speaking at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida Thursday night, President Donald Trump detailed the launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield.
“Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” he said. “It is in this vital, national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
Both the statement and the actions of the military under his command represented a dramatic departure from Trump’s numerous previous comments on the conflict in Syria. The same was true of his remarks immediately following Syria’s alleged chemical weapons attack Tuesday.
“These heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration’s weakness and irresolution,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday. “President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a ‘red line’ against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing,”
President Barack Obama had stated in August 2012 that “a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
A year later, a chemical attack using the nerve agent sarin in the Syrian capital Damascus killed more than 1,400 people. The U.S. assessed with “high confidence” that the Syrian government had been responsible. Over the following weeks, Obama weighed following through on his “red-line” statement with military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and said he’d seek approval from Congress. He ultimately postponed the vote indefinitely after it was clear that the Republican majority would not approve military action.
Meanwhile, Trump, then a reality TV host, repeatedly said the U.S. should not enter the Syrian civil war.
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