How the suspected Syria gas attack turned into one of the biggest crises of Trump's presidency
TOP VIDEOS FOR YOUThe strikes would be in response to a suspected chemical-weapons attack by the regime of Bashar Assad. Trump previously ordered a missile strike on Syria in April 2017, following allegations of a chemical-weapons attack.
Advertisement"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
Below, you can see how one of the biggest crises of Trump's presidency emerged in the course of a week:
Trump reportedly told military officials to prepare to withdraw from Syria on Tuesday, April 3, the same day that senior military leaders warned that the fight against ISIS was not over.
"I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation," Trump said on April 3.
That dispute between Trump and his military advisers was followed on April 7, by what is believed to have been a chemical weapons attack on civilians in Douma, a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta, near Damascus.
Initial estimates of the death toll ranged from about 40 to more than 150. Local groups said scores of people "suffocated to death." Many of those killed were huddled in shelters, and chlorine gas was suspected.
In the days after the attack, Trump inveighed against Russian President Vladimir Putin, appearing to drop the long-held affection he has had for the Russian leader. "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad," Trump tweeted, adding there was a "Big price" to pay.
The weekend closed with strikes reported at military airfields in Syria. The US denied it carried to the strikes, and Syria and Russia blamed Israel, which did not immediately deny involvement. US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said early on Monday that he would not rule out "anything" in regard to the US response to the chemical attack.
Trump started the week railing against the suspected chemical attack, calling it "atrocious" and "horrible." He said his administration would make a decision about how to response within 48 hours. "We cannot allow atrocities like that," he said. "Everybody's going to pay a price."
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley also railed against Russia during a UN Security Council meeting on Monday. "The Russian regime, whose hands are also covered in the blood of Syrian children, cannot be shamed by pictures of its victims," she said. "Russia could stop this senseless slaughter, if it wanted, but it stands with the Assad regime and supports it without hesitation."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told security cabinet officials during a closed meeting on Monday that he believed the US would order a military strike in Syria in response to the attack.
On Tuesday morning, hours after federal agents raided the office of Trump's personal lawyer, the White House announced that Trump would skip the Summit of the Americas, which was scheduled to take place in Lima, Peru, starting April 13. The White House said Trump would remain in the US to "oversee the American response to Syria."
On Tuesday, Russia vetoed a US-drafted UN resolution that would have condemned the suspected chemical attack in Syria and set up a new body to investigate who was responsible for it. Twelve of the council's 15 members voted for the resolution, with Russia and Bolivia voting "no." China abstained.
A French naval source also said Tuesday that over the weekend a fully armed Russian warplane buzzed the French frigate Aquitaine at low altitude in the eastern Mediterranean. The Aquitaine was operating off Lebanon alongside US warships in support of the operation against ISIS. The French source said the French government contacted Russia about the overflight.
On Tuesday evening, Russia's ambassador to Lebanon told Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that, "If there is a strike by the Americans," then "the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired."
Earlier on Tuesday, Russia said it hoped all sides involved in Syria would act with restraint to avoid further destabilizing the situation. The Kremlin said allegations the Assad regime carried out the attacks were not based on real facts and called for an impartial investigation. Asked about the Russian ambassador to Lebanon's comments about shooting down US missiles, a Russian spokesman said he did not want to comment.
Wednesday started with an early-morning tweet from Trump. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!'" Trump said. "You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
"So much Fake News about what is going on in the White House. Very calm and calculated with a big focus on open and fair trade with China, the coming North Korea meeting and, of course, the vicious gas attack in Syria. Feels great to have Bolton & Larry K on board" Trump added later on Wednesday, referring to new national-security adviser John Bolton and new senior economic adviser Larry Kudlow.
Not long after appearing to threaten imminent strikes in Syria, Trump took what seemed to be a more conciliatory tone, tweeting, "Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?"
The Pentagon, asked about Trump tweeting that missiles "will be coming" to Syria, said on Wednesday morning that it wouldn't comment on potential military operations. While a Pentagon spokesman said the attack on April 7 "demands an immediate response from the international community," he referred questions "to the White House to characterize the president's tweet."
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