President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on Air Force One en route from Andrews Air Force Base to Palm Beach International Airport.
President Donald Trump speaks with reporters on Air Force One en route from Andrews Air Force Base to Palm Beach International Airport. Alex Brandon

US prepares for assault on Assad

THE US would seem to be preparing for possible military action against Syria after Donald Trump said "something should happen” to President Bashar Assad.

In what appears to be a shift in the Trump administration's position following a nerve gas attack, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said there was "no role” for Mr Assad in Syria's future and that "steps were under way” to remove him.

"I think what Assad did is terrible,” Mr Trump told reporters travelling with him on Air Force One.

"I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity and he's there, and I guess he's running things, so something should happen.”

Just a week ago, the US said its diplomatic policy on Syria was no longer focused on forcing Mr Assad from power.

Now, following a chemical attack in Syria that left up to 100 people dead and which the West has blamed on the Assad regime, the US appears to have shifted its position to one more in line with most European nations.

CNN said Mr Trump told some members of Congress that he was considering military action in Syria, and possibly establishing so-called "safe zones” there, while the Pentagon was said to be drawing up a range of options for him to review.

Senator John McCain said it was "his understanding” Mr Trump was consulting with Defence Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser HR McMaster.

Mr McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham issued a joint statement calling for military action, recommending an international coalition "to ground Assad's air force”.

"We agree with the President that Assad has crossed a line with his latest use of chemical weapons,” they said.

In 2013 and 2014, Mr Trump urged then president Barack Obama not to take military action against Syria following an earlier chemical weapons attack, and to instead focus on "fixing the US”.

But Mr Trump said he had been moved by images of the dead from this week's attack in Syria's Idlib province.

NBC said the US military had monitored by radar two Syrian fixed-wing aircraft dropping chemical weapons on civilians on the town of Khan Sheikhoun.



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