President Donald Trump signaled Tuesday that he won’t send U.S. ground troops into Syria.
Trump ordered missile strikes last week targeting the airbase where U.S. intelligence believes the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack early last week that killed dozens of civilians, including children.
Trump’s about-face on Syria — the “America first” candidate was previously against military intervention, advising President Barack Obama years ago to “stay the hell out of Syria” and questioning the result of bombing Syria aside from “more debt and a possible long term conflict” — raised doubts about whether the outsider who was elected sans any political or military experience had any foreign policy doctrine.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer, however, was adamant this week that it’s still “America first.” And while the administration has indicated that it won’t tolerate chemical weapons use, officials have been relatively quiet about the prospect of additional U.S. responses, aside from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin noting that economic sanctions are imminent.
“We’re not going into Syria,” Trump told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo in an interview that will air Wednesday morning.
“But when I see people using horrible, horrible chemical weapons,” he continued, segueing into how the Syrian regime violated an Obama-era agreement not to use chemical weapons without completing his initial thought.
In the Trump administration’s first statement last week condemning what it called Syria’s “reprehensible” attack, the president labeled Assad’s “heinous actions” a result of the Obama administration’s “weakness and irresolution” and faulted Obama for drawing a so-called red line but failing to act militarily once it was crossed. He doubled down Tuesday.
“Look, what I did should have been done by the Obama administration a long time before I did it,” Trump said. “And you would have had a much better — I think Syria would be a lot better off right now than it has been.”
Speaking to Bartiromo, Trump also escalated his attacks on the Syrian president, labeling him “an animal.”
“When you drop gas or bombs or barrel bombs — they have these massive barrels with dynamite and they drop them right in the middle of a group of people,” the president said. “And in all fairness, you see the same kids, no arms, no leg, no face. This is an animal.”
The president added that Russian leader Vladimir Putin, by supporting Assad’s regime, was doing the world severe harm.
“Putin is backing a person that’s truly an evil person. And I think that’s very bad for Russia,” he said. “I think that’s very bad for mankind. It’s very bad for this word. ”