President Donald Trump responded on Sunday to reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, calling it “mindless” and an “atrocity.” On Twitter, he placed the blame on Russia, Iran, and Russian president Vladimir Putin for backing the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price…— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
As The New York Times detailed, dozens of Syrians were killed late on Saturday evening by an apparent chemical weapons attack, an act which aid groups and international observers have blamed on the Assad government. The deaths occurred in Douma, a suburb to the east of the Syrian capital of Damascus, and a stronghold for anti-Assad rebels.
According to the BBC, at least 70 people are believed to have been killed, while the Syrian and Russian governments have maintained that claims of a chemical weapons attack are a “fabrication.”
Trump’s tweeted statements on Sunday morning are notable in that they explicitly make negative reference toward Putin, who he’s otherwise tried to cultivate a friendly relationship with throughout his presidency. Liberal critics who’ve considered Trump too cozy with the Russian leader have frequently noted how rarely, if ever, he’s said a negative word about Putin.
In this case, however, that seems to have gone out the window. Despite recent reports that Trump was considering a withdrawal of U.S. military resources from Syria, his comments on Sunday would seem to suggest an escalation of American military involvement there. He followed up the tweet about Russia, Iran, and Putin with one criticizing his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, for failing to take more aggressive action against Assad during his administration.
If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 8, 2018
As it’s often noted, however, it always seems like there’s a Trump tweet from the recent past ready to contradict the claims he makes in the present. In reality, during Obama’s second term, Trump vociferously opposed America entering combat in Syria, as demonstrated in the following all-caps tweet.
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
It should be noted that this new saber-rattling against the Syrian government comes following Trump’s selection of former U.N. ambassador John Bolton to be his new national security adviser. Bolton, 69, has long been a proponent of increased American bombing and military escalation in the Middle East, particularly with regards to Syria and Iran. His first official day as national security adviser will be on Monday.