Asked yesterday by AP reporter Julie Pace about Syrian President Assad’s sarin gas attacks on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, President Trump responded: “It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal, people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line. Many, many lines.”
Trump’s language harked back to President Obama’s bloviation on Syria, but he wasn’t done. He went on specifically to cite Obama’s empty threat regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons. “I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand,” Trump said. “And when he didn’t cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, but in many other parts of the world, because it was a blank threat. I think it was something that was not one of our better days as a country.”
President Trump’s statement is striking. It looks to be the predicate of some form of military reprisal by the United States.
Students of ancient history may be puzzled. They may recall that Assad was supposed to have given up those chemical weapons pursuant to the agreement reached in September 2013. They may further recall that Assad was to have given up those chemical weapons to our Russian enemies. Through the fog of time they may also recall that the Russians were to have done so at the behest of President Obama. How can this be?
The first New York Times report on the attack looks at the relevant history through a glass darkly:
Under threat of United States retaliation, Mr. Assad agreed to a Russian-American deal to eliminate his country’s chemical weapons program, which until that time it had denied having, and to join an international treaty banning chemical weapons.
But the operation took far longer than expected and raised questions about whether all the materials were accounted for. The head of the international monitoring body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, complained in an internal report about misleading statements from Damascus and expressed concern about possible undeclared chemical weapons.
Since then, the organization, working with the United Nations, has found that the Syrian government used chlorine gas as a weapon three times in 2014 and 2015, violating the treaty.
Protecting the sensitivities of its readers, the Times omits to mention that it was President Obama who put us into bed with the Russians in this futile venture so as to preserve his outreach to our Iranian enemies.
There seems to be a pattern here. Michael Doran explained it all in the 2015 Mosaic essay “Obama’s secret Iran strategy.”