Wed | Nov 13, 2019

Amid escalating tensions over Syria, Trump weighs options

Published:Saturday | April 14, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Amid escalating global tensions over Syria, United States President Donald Trump weighed his options for responding, possibly with military strikes, to the Syrian government's suspected chemical weapons attack against civilians. Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said yesterday the president has not yet made a final decision on how or whether to respond.

Trump is expected to consult further with his national security team. Earlier this week, he tweeted that US missile strikes against Syria could happen "very soon or not so soon at all." On Thursday, he met with his National Security Council and spoke by phone with the leaders of Britain and France, both of whom have indicated that they want to punish Syria.

As Trump deliberated, the Navy said a second ship capable of firing Tomahawk cruise missiles had entered the Mediterranean. With the addition of the USS Winston S. Churchill, the US now has two ships potentially within range of Syria for firing Tomahawks, which were the weapon of choice when the US struck Syria in April 2017. Navy submarines also are capable of firing Tomahawks; their movements are kept secret, but they are commonly in the Mediterranean.

Haley told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that should the United States and its allies decide to act in Syria, it will be to defend "a bedrock international norm that benefits all nations" - the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

She said Friday that "the United States estimates that (President Bashar) Assad has used chemical weapons in the Syrian war at least 50 times."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the Middle East is in such "peril" today that it has become a threat to international peace and security, and that Syria "represents the most serious threat".