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Donald Trump; alleged victims of the chemical attack

Remarkable reversal of Trump’s Syria policy

Trump's strong views on US Syria policy under former President Obama dates back to 2013 when he began repeatedly criticising the potential for American involvement. Thus the decision to use military force against Syria is a remarkable reversal for Trump.

Published: April 7, 2017, 11:08 am

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    Washington

    Before he was president, Donald Trump tweeted continually that the US should not bomb Syria. From 2013 to 2014 Trump warned against military action in Syria, including a tweet that called for Obama administration to “stay the hell out of Syria”.

    Trump was still opposed to aggressive military involvement in Syria after becoming the Republican nominee during the 2016 presidential election campaign. He insisted that the Obama administration was letting its commitment to political correctness get in the way of the fight against terrorism.

    In an interview just weeks out from election day, he said his opponent’s policies on Syria, which included the establishment of a no-fly zone, would lead to a world war.

    “What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict?” Trump responded in one tweet. “Obama needs Congressional approval.”

    He also tweeted: “What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria.”

    As the White House ordered strikes on Syria late Thursday, several of those old anti-war tweets were recirculating on Twitter, especially two in which Trump had called for congressional approval before launching any military actions against Syria.

    There is still no proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s used chemical weapons on his own people, killing more than 80, but Trump nevertheless announced Thursday’s attack in an official statement.

    Trump now says because he is a “flexible person”, he has changed his mind on Syria. “That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact,” he said. “My attitude to Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

    Just over a month ago, Trump wanted to bar entry of all Syrian refugees into the United States, including children.

    “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

    Trump ended his announcement of Thursday’s strike with the grand goal of ending “terrorism of all kinds and all types”.

    But the rapid shift in the administration’s response to the Syrian conflict already became clear when US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley started accusing the Syrian government of the chemical attack without presenting any evidence.

    Last week, Nikki Haley, Trump’s UN ambassador, said of Assad: “Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No.”

    US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday: “We have a very high level of confidence” the strikes Tuesday were “carried out by aircraft of the Bashar al-Assad regime” and a high degree of confidence it was “sarin nerve gas”.

    Multiple witnesses reported a “rotten smell” and greenish colour. Both Sarin and Soman are in pure form colourless, tasteless and odourless.

    Jihadists on Friday welcomed a US strike on a government airbase, and urged additional action, with one powerful faction saying a single strike was “not enough”, AFP reports.

    “Hitting one airbase is not enough, there are 26 airbases that target civilians,” a key figure in the Army of Islam faction, Mohamed Alloush, tweeted.

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