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Trump harsh but unclear on 'price' Syria will pay for chemical attack

From CBC - April 10, 2018

As U.S.President Donald Trump ponders military action in Syria following a suspected chemical attack on the weekend, there are fresh questions about what a possible strike would achieve.

Around this time last year, Trump was praised by some of his alliesincluding Britain, Saudi Arabia and Turkeyfor taking a hard line againstSyria's President Bashar al-Assad by ordering a limited strike on a Syrianair base, after reports theregime had usedchemical weapons on itsown people.

Launched from two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea, the April 7, 2017, attack destroyed about 20 per cent of Syria's active warplanes, according to American officials, and damaged the runway at al-Shayrat Air Base, near Homs. But just days later, the local governor bragged that the base was operational again.

The alleged chemical weapons attack in the city of Doumathis past weekend, which has left dozens dead, seems to offerproof that Trump's 2017 strike failed to act as a warning against furtherchemical weapons use.

If Trump officials"are serious about deterrence, they will have prepared a series of sustained strikes every time Assad uses chemical weapons," said Robert Ford, the last American ambassador to Syria, in an interview with Middle East news site The National.

Trump promises response

The latest Syrian chemical attack occurred on Saturday, but it was onlyafter images of children and adults who appeared to be foaming at the mouth began circulating thatTrump seemed moved to respond. In a tweet, the president wrote that Russia and Iran "are responsible for backing Animal Assad."

"Big price to pay," he continued.

Moscow has called the allegations of a chemical attack in Douma "fabrications." Both Russia and Syria are now inviting inspectors from the international chemical weapons watchdog into the country to investigate.

Beyond inquiries and diplomacy, the Pentagon is believed to be considering military options for Syria, including another limited strike.But some observers say it would not address the larger issue.

"Repeating what Mr. Trump did in April of 2017 wo not fix the chemical weapons problem in Syria," said Ford.

Trump's military brass could also pitch a more complexand dangerousmission: a plan to restrict the government and forces loyal to it from launching future chemical attacks.

"Among the bank of possible responses are sites that are related to chemical weapons, Syrian helicopters and planes that drop them, and air defence systems," wrote Amos Yaldin, a former general who commanded Israeli military intelligence, in the newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

International condemnation

'Let the other people take care of it'

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