WASHINGTON — President Trump said on Wednesday that this week’s devastating chemical weapons attack in Syria had changed his view of the brutal civil war in that country, though he declined to say how the United States would respond.
Mr. Trump said the images of death inside Syria in the aftermath of the chemical attacks “crosses many lines, beyond a red line, many many lines.” And he said that the death of “innocent children, innocent babies, little babies” has made him reassess the situation and Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
“It’s very, very possible, and I will tell you it has already happened, that my attitude toward Syria and Assad, has changed very much,” Mr. Trump said as he stood next to King Abdullah of Jordan in the Rose Garden for a news conference with reporters.
Before the chemical attack, Mr. Trump’s administration had repeatedly said it did not intend to pursue the ouster of Mr. Assad. As recently as Tuesday, Mr. Trump’s spokesman said doing so would be “silly” in the face of the political realities in the country.
But Mr. Trump on Wednesday appeared to hint at a shift in that policy, though he offered only vague assertions that the aftermath of the chemical attack is “unacceptable” to him. Pressed on what his policy will be, Mr. Trump said it would be unwise to reveal any plans his administration might have.
A shift could suggest that Mr. Trump is considering military action through aircraft or missile strikes, much the way that former President Barack Obama debated — and ultimately rejected — options in the wake of a similar chemical attack by the Syrian government in 2013.
“I’m not saying I’m doing anything one way or the other,” Mr. Trump said, telling the reporter who asked the question: “But I’m certainly not going to be telling you, as much as I respect you.”
Mr. Trump on Wednesday repeated his belief that Mr. Obama bears blame for the chemical attacks because he declared that the use of chemical weapons by Syria would “cross a red line” and then declined to follow up on that threat by using military force.
“I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis,” Mr. Trump said. “When he didn’t cross that line, after making the threat, I think that set us back a long ways. It was a blank threat.”
At the United Nations on Wednesday, the American ambassador, Nikki R. Haley, used her remarks at an emergency session to blame Russia for blocking a robust response to the chemical weapons attack.
The United States, France and Britain have accused the Syrian government of being responsible for the attack and have bitterly criticized Russia — Syria’s main ally in the six-year-old war — for objecting to a resolution condemning the attack.
Russia has said insurgents may have been responsible or the attack may have been fabricated to embarrass Mr. Assad.
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