US President Donald Trump said on Monday he will announce the US response to the chemical attack in Syria within the next two days, leaving the door open for the military option and the issue of accountability.
“It was atrocious. It was horrible,” Trump told reporters before the start of a meeting of his cabinet. “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen.”
He added: “If it’s the Russians if it’s Syria if it’s Iran, if it’s all of them together, we’ll figure it out…To me, there’s not much (of) a doubt (who is behind it), but the generals will figure it out.”
Pressed by reporters on whether Russian President Vladimir Putin bears responsibility for the chemical attack, Trump said, “He may, yeah, he may. And if he does, it’s going to be very tough, very tough. Everybody’s going to pay the price. He will, everybody will.”
He qualified the timeline for a US response: “We’ll be making that decision very quickly. Probably by the end of today. We cannot allow atrocities like that.”
Asked if military action was off the table, Donald Trump said, “Nothing is off the table.”
Trump also said his meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could take place in “May or early June and I think there will be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully, there will be a deal on de-nuking.”
The US had hit a Syrian military air base with around 60 cruise missiles after a chemical weapons attack in 2017, a response Trump ordered and announced during a dinner with visiting Chinese president Xi Jinping.
On Sunday, Donald Trump had responded aggressively to the latest attack, blaming “Animal Assad,” for the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and threatened a “big price.”
Donald Trump also slammed Putin, for the first time by name, Russia and Iran, who are backing the Assad regime.
The sudden escalation on Syria comes as Trump has publicly and repeatedly vowed to pull US troops — around 2,000 — from the country, saying their primary task of destroying the Islamic State is over. The US military and state department don’t agree and believe there is much remaining to be done.
But the plans include leaving behind a small contingent to hunt down remaining IS terrorists and to train local forces to secure areas liberated from the group.