President Donald Trump’s missile strikes against the Assad regime in Syria on Friday were “appropriate and measured,” says Former Amb. to Syria Ryan Crocker, but the emotion Trump showed when discussing last week’s chemical attack on civilians should give him pause to reconsider his policy on Syrian refugees.
“The President spoke with real emotion when he described the murder of innocent men, women and children, and when he spoke of the ‘beautiful babies,’” says Crocker, currently an executive professor at Texas A&M University. “He clearly meant it and I was pleased to hear it. And now the President has seen and reacted forcefully to a perpetrator of terrorism. He can distinguish between those who deliver terrorism and those who are its victims. These beautiful babies who’ve been murdered, had they lived, they would not have been allowed into the U.S. under Trump’s policies.”
The U.S. strike against the Syrian government was in response to a chemical weapon attack in Syria last Tuesday, for which the U.S. blames the Assad regime. Trump called the gas attack a “truly egregious crime,” adding, “it shouldn’t have happened and shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”
Friday’s missile strike targeted the Shayrat air base in Syria, and Crocker, who served as U.S. ambassador to Syria from 1998-2001 under President Bill Clinton, says Trump’s decision to strike that base was appropriate.
“The President was given a range of options from doing nothing to a major engagement,” Crocker notes. “He chose an option which would clearly have an impact, but would be measured, as he put it. This is a not a large base, but it is the base from which we believe the sarin attacks originated. And that seems to me to be an appropriate way to approach this — not too big, not too small.”
This is not the first time the Assad regime has been blamed for chemical attacks on its civilians during the six-year civil war between the Syrian government and the nation’s rebels. On March 19, 2013, more than two dozen Syrians died in a sarin gas attack in Northern Syria. And on Aug. 21, 2013, hundreds were gassed with sarin in an attack near Damascus.
At the UN Security Council last week, America’s allies around the world expressed their support for the strike on the Assad regime, with the exception of Russia, which condemned the attack, calling it a violation of international law.
“That is utterly ridiculous to accuse us of violating international law when Russia is supporting a murderous regime that is using chemical weapons,” Crocker asserts. “If I were a Russian I’d be embarrassed.”
Crocker says the notion that Russia came to Syria to fight terrorism is preposterous. “There is no question that Russians came into Syria to support the regime. They are there to support a genocidal regime and should be ashamed of themselves.”
So what message is Trump sending the world with this move? “The President will decide that with whatever comes next,” notes Crocker. “Is this a ‘one and done? If so there will be disappointed people in the Middle East. Or is this a first step in a comprehensive policy with regional allies toward Syria?
“We have effectively not had a Syrian policy at any point since the violence started in 2011. It appeared Trump would follow former President Barack Obama and not have a policy. Now we are at a different place. What will be the next step? That, in my mind, is the big question.”
Media contact: Lesley Henton, 979-845-5591, firstname.lastname@example.org