US: No Doubt Assad is Behind Chemical Attack, Considering 'Serious Response'
21:55 06.04.2017(updated 01:15 07.04.2017)
On the eve of a meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that the US is convinced Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will be held responsible for the recent chemical attack in the Idlib province of Syria.
Speaking in West Palm Beach, Florida, on the day of a major meeting between the world's two largest economic powers, Tillerson called the chemical weapons explosion a "tragedy" that would "require a serious response" commensurate with the damage inflicted.
At the same time President Trump was aboard Air Force One on the way to Florida, he told journalists that reports of him discussing military options in Syria were not true.
When questioned about Assad's legitimacy as the leader of Syria, Trump said, "I think what Assad did is terrible," and that the recent tragedy constitutes a "truly egregious" crime. "I think what happened in Syria is one of the truly egregious crimes. It shouldn't have happened. It shouldn't be allowed to happen."
When asked whether Assad should leave power, Trump replied, "He's there and I guess he's running things, so something should happen."
Trump said he has yet to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Syria, "but at some point, I may," he said.
"No steps are underway" for ousting Assad from power, Tillerson said.
According to him, any plans to remove Assad would require international cooperation and would not be an operation undertaken by the US alone. Tillerson went on to add that the Russian government should "carefully" consider its support of the Assad administration.
Its not clear what kind of response the US will take – Washington's leaders are only saying that it will be "appropriate" and "serious."
The Syrian government denied it used chemical weapons in Idlib. According to Syrian officials, the Syrian Arab Army gave up its entire arsenal of chemical weapons under the supervision of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in August of 2014. The destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal was confirmed by the UN's inspections. Russia's Ministry of Defense alleged that exposure to chemical materials in Idlib occurred after Syrian jets bombed a warehouse where rebels produced their own chemical weapons.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|