Donald Trump has been saying, “America First” for over a year. He has been against “nation building” and foreign wars for longer than that. In fact, in an interview with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, Trump said we should make Syria a “free zone” for ISIS—leave them alone to fight Syrian President Bashar al Assad.
O’REILLY: Syria, are you going to violate their territory?
TRUMP: No, interestingly Syria’s supposed to be our enemy. . .It’s really rather amazing, maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS, let them fight and then you pick up the remnants.
Trump upped the ante last week, saying we should forget about Syria. That brought a rebuke from Sen. John McCain, also on Fox.
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday the Trump administration’s decision to no longer prioritize ending the Syrian civil war is “another disgraceful chapter in American history.”. . .
McCain — a vocal critic of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy — said the commander in chief needs to speak out against Assad and promise that his allies will pay a price for their actions against the Syrian people. . .“I don’t see any doctrine right now,” he said.
Many people in Congress think the recent gas attack in Syria was a direct response to Trump administration’s announcement that Syria would be on the back burner—in much the same way as we may have encouraged Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in 1989, because we didn’t condemn the claim that Kuwait was really a territory of Iraq.
Another of Trump’s main critics regarding Syria is Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
“It’s my belief if you’re Bashar al-Assad — and you read that it is no longer a priority of the United States to have you removed from power — I believe that that is an incentive to act with impunity,” Rubio said. . .
During the GOP presidential primary campaign last year, Rubio criticized Trump for what the senator characterized as reckless and short-sighted foreign policy views.
Rubio has also chided the administration for its chummy attitude toward Russia.
When Rubio asked Tillerson during his confirmation hearings if Russian President Vladimir Putin was a “war criminal,” Tillerson demurred. “I would not use that term,” said Tillerson, a former Exxon executive who was personally awarded a “friendship medal” by Putin.
Rubio then peppered Tillerson with facts about how Putin’s enemies tend to wind up dead. Tillerson said he would have to learn more before he could answer.
“None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson,” Rubio snapped. “These people are dead.”
Trump’s response has been to try to blame the Obama Administration for this past week’s gas attack. Rubio says that’s nonsense.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagreed with many of the decisions made by the Obama administration on foreign policy, but that presidency’s over; we have a new presidency,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said.
The criticism is an echo of Democrats who blamed George Bush for problems they faced. Republicans, at the time, said that was nonsense.
Also nonsense is the often repeated claim that Obama made a “red line” and didn’t honor it. But the truth is that, at an unrelated news conference, Obama said that if there was MASSIVE use of chemical weapons, that would change our outlook on Syria. There has not been massive use of chemical weapons since World War I—a hundred years ago.
Here’s that quote:
We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a WHOLE BUNCH of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation. [Emphasis added]
After the 2012 news conference, some in Congress complained, but Obama threw it back in their lap, saying if they wanted action, they should vote for it in Congress. What could have been a way to reclaim some war powers from the Executive Branch went unanswered.
Meanwhile, the Guardian says that the situation underlines Trump’s erratic approach to serious matters.
Only a few days ago, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, declared: “our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had argued the Syrian president’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people”, ignoring the fact that many of those people were under relentless bombardment by Assad and unable to voice an opinion. . .[Then, UN representative Nikki] Haley said that when the UN fails in its duty, “there are times in the life of states when we are compelled to take our own actions.”
Now we have the news that the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria, beginning direct military engagement, according to Fox.
The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV reported a U.S. missile attack on a number of military targets and called the attack an “aggression.”
The Guardian notes the danger of killing Russians.
Moreover, any action against the Syrian regime would now also be against Russia.
Colin Kahl, a former member of the Obama White House, noted in a tweet that it was “worth remembering there are Russian advisers at nearly every relevant Assad base. Any strike means dead Russians.”
Fox admits that Russians were at the base that was attacked.
U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit. . .
Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
Aside from protesting the US attack, Russia considers the previous gas attack “fake news,” as Trump would say.
Maria Zakharova, the [Russian] foreign ministry’s new spokesperson, has taken a leaf from her predecessor’s playbook. On Wednesday, she intimated that despite a U.S., EU assessment that around 60 people were gassed by the regime from the air using sarin. . .the whole ordeal was an elaborate bit of playacting.
The article notes that the Russian claim was also pushed by InfoWars, an AltRight site.
Speaking of Trump, one of his allies in the tin-hatted corner of the internet, the conspiracy site InfoWars, ran several articles and segments on Wednesday calling the atrocity a “false flag attack.” One article said the attack hadn’t been carried out by Assad but by the White Helmets [UN peacekeepers], which InfoWars labeled as a “an al-Qaeda affiliated group funded by George Soros and the British government.”. . .
President Trump is a self-professed fan of InfoWars, saying as recently as December 2015 that the website’s “reputation is amazing” and that “I will not let you down.”
What will Trump do now? Nobody knows, and that probably includes Donald J. Trump. But actions have consequences. Russia is not likely to take the attack lying down. Also, if Syria wants to counterattack, our most vulnerable target is right next door to them: Israel.
The Israelis have already been bombing inside Syria, according to NewsMax.
A Syrian military statement said four Israeli warplanes violated Syrian airspace — flying into Syria through Lebanese territory — and targeted a military position in central Syria. . .
Israel is widely believed to have carried out airstrikes on advanced weapons systems in Syria — including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles.
Israel has warned Syria not to fire at its jets when they carry out missions over [Syria].
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Sunday threatened to destroy Syrian air defense systems after they fired ground-to-air missiles at Israeli warplanes carrying out strikes [inside Syria].
“The next time the Syrians use their air defence systems against our planes we will destroy them without the slightest hesitation,” Lieberman said on Israeli public radio.
Israeli warplanes hit several targets in Syria on Friday.
With Israel bombing inside Syria with impunity, and threatening to destroy Syria’s defenses, will other area nations sit idly by? And with the United States bombing bases where they know Russians are located, can World War III be far behind?