In a rare political move, United States President Donald Trump called out Russian President Vladimir Putin for backing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on the heels of a reported chemical weapons attack in Syria. Sunday morning’s tweet by Trump warned of a “big price to pay”, directed at both Putin and Iran. The reported chemical attacks come almost one year to the day since a U.S. led attack on a Syrian air field in response to Assad’s continual assaults on the innocent people of Syria.
On Saturday, Syrian activist groups claim that dozens of civilians were killed and wounded as toxic gas inside barrel bombs dropped from helicopters onto rebel-controlled Duoma. Syrian officials continue to deny Saturday’s events. On Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued an official statement asserting that the alleged attack was a hoax. The statement also claimed that the rumors were an attempt to shield terrorists and provide justification for military attacks from outside forces.
The strong verbal words against Putin by Trump is a departure from the typical amicable relationship the two leaders appear to have with each other. Trump also took the opportunity to criticize former President Barack Obama’s Syrian policies and put the blame on his inability to deal with the issue while he was in office. Vice President Mike Pence used Twitter to echo Trump’s sentiment and condemn the assault. White House homeland security adviser Tom Bossert said in an interview with ABC News that the administration would not rule out an attack against Syria in retaliation. Saturday’s alleged attacks call into question Trump’s recent statement advocating that the U.S. begin to pull troops out of Syria. Many political officials believe that the U.S. should increase its presence in Syria while also putting additional economic pressure on Russia in the form of sanctions in an effort to de-escalate the eight-year Syrian conflict.