President Trump was scheduled to leave the country Friday for a 3-day trip to Latin America but today the White House announced the president would cancel that trip in order to focus on events in Syria. From the Associated Press:
President Donald Trump on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to South America this week, choosing to stay home to manage what U.S. officials hope will be an international response to Syria’s apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians…
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia, as planned, remaining in the United States to “oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
The president’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, urged Trump to skip the trip, an official said. This reflects a view in the White House that deeper Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria have complicated calculations about a response to any U.S. military attack, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
Trump’s decision follows a change of plans yesterday by Secretary of Defense Mattis who was scheduled to be in San Francisco for a speech Saturday. Mattis canceled that appearance as well as a scheduled speech next Monday. So what is in the works here? President Trump said in a tweet there would be a price to pay for use of chemical weapons (again) in Syria. Reuters reported Monday that some sort of joint-military response involving France and the UK was under consideration at the White House:
U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity did not disclose any plans, but acknowledged military options were being developed. The White House, Pentagon and State Department declined to comment on specific options or whether military action was likely.
Experts on Syria’s war cited France and perhaps even Britain and Middle East allies as potential partners in any U.S. military operation, which would aim to discourage future chemical weapons use in Syria’s brutal civil war. President Emmanuel Macron warned in February that France would strike Syria if it broke treaties prohibiting chemical weapons. France has more than a dozen warplanes in the Middle East and could look to strike from the sea.
Earlier today I wrote about Nikki Haley’s statement about the chemical attack and her focus on Russia’s responsibility for normalizing. Naturally, Russia is denying everything. The US backed a resolution calling for an independent investigation of the attack and just a few moments ago Russia vetoed that:
Russia blocks a UN Security Council resolution that would have established an independent investigation into a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria https://t.co/FJAnGrgrNz pic.twitter.com/QcoqqVCyzO
— CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) April 10, 2018
Not very surprising at this point. As Haley pointed out yesterday, Russia has blocked every effort to hold Syria accountable and is already making pre-emptive threats about any military action by the U.S.
Russia is warning the U.S. against any “military intervention” in Syria over the government’s alleged chemical attack against civilians this weekend, saying any such response would be “unacceptable” and lead to the “most serious consequences”.
The foreign ministry in Moscow also says in a statement on its website that allegations of the chemical attack are “fabricated,” suggesting the claims were invented by rebel forces and the Syrian Civil Defense known as the White Helmets.
“It is necessary to warn again that military intervention under invented and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where at the request of the lawful government there are Russian military personnel, is absolutely unacceptable and can lead to the most serious consequences,” the statement reads. “The aim of these false speculations, that have no basis, is to shield the terrorists and the irreconcilable radical opposition, who reject a political solution, at the same time while trying to justify possible armed strikes from outside.”
I don’t think that’s going to prevent the U.S. and perhaps a few other nations from launching a joint attack intended to send a message. Last year, Russia mocked the attack on a Syrian airbase, claiming it was operational just a day or so later. So expect this strike to be bigger and harder to shrug off.
The NY Times is already suggesting this saber-rattling might really be about the raid on his lawyer’s office. You can expect plenty of people to embrace this claim, including propagandists in Russia who will no doubt like the idea that Trump is wagging the dog. There’s some real irony to be mined here. The left has spent more than a year fantasizing about Trump’s impeachment over collusion with Russia. Now, if we see a military response aimed at brushing Russia back in Syria, it will be framed not as proof that Trump isn’t Russia’s puppet after all, but merely as a cynical attempt to distract the nation. Move toward Russia: Collusion. Attack Russia: Distraction. This is the left’s version of heads I win, tails you lose.