Trump issues vague threat on Twitter after chemical attack in Syria

Twitter foreign policy at its best.

US President Donald Trump makes his way across the South Lawn upon returning to the White House on April 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. 
US President Donald Trump makes his way across the South Lawn upon returning to the White House on April 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. (CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump issued a vague threat on Twitter on Sunday, after reports of a chemical attack in Syria.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Trump wrote. “Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia, and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big Price…”

The tweet uncharacteristically named Putin by name, but it’s still unclear whether the “big price to pay” was directed at Russia, Iran, or Syria.


Trump then went on to blame Obama for not crossing “his stated Red Line In The Sand,” referring to Obama’s position that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons would lead to U.S. military action.

At least 70 Syrians died after a reported chemical attack on Saturday in Douma, a rebel-held area near the capital of Damascus.

“Seventy people suffocated to death and hundreds are still suffocating,” Raed al-Saleh, head of the volunteer-run rescue group White Helmets, told Al Jazeera, adding that the death toll was expected to increase.

The White Helmets, Douma Coordination Committee, and Ghouta Media Center blamed Assad and said that barrel bombs with toxic gas were released on Douma by helicopters.

A Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations (UOSSM) told CNN that doctors in eastern Ghouta were reporting seeing “patients who were convulsing from side to side and some appeared to be paralyzed and unresponsive.”

Trump’s Twitter diplomacy seemed to contravene his recent statements on Syria.

Over the last week, Trump has repeatedly said that he will withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. He initially gave no timeline for this withdrawal, simply saying that troops would leave “very soon.”


According to CNN, he later reportedly told his national security team that he wanted a withdrawal of troops within six months, but received pushback. Trump agreed to wait, and a White House statement on Syria on Wednesday gave no timetable for when the withdrawal would actually happen.

On Sunday, Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert defended the withdrawal of troops from Syria, and maintained that there needs to be greater “regional partnerships” to fix the conflict there.

“American troops aren’t going to fix the six or seven different ongoing conflicts and wars going on in the Middle East at this stage, or in Syria at this stage,” Bossert said on ABC’s This Week. “We need regional partnerships increased and we need U.S. presence decreased.”

Still, Bossert said that Trump’s security team was viewing images of the attack all night and that nothing would be taken “off the table” when it comes to Syria.

Last April, Trump greenlit the bombing of an airbase in Syria after a reported chemical attack, raising questions about whether Trump will order similar action be taken after Saturday’s suspected chemical attack.

According to Eric Trump, the president was persuaded to bomb the airbase last year by his daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, who was “heartbroken and outraged” by the images of the attack.


That was the first direct attack on Assad’s government since the civil war first began in 2011, but it didn’t have much consequence. The United States warned Russia before the strikes, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the airbase was again open within 24 hours of the attack.

Before he was president, Trump repeatedly warned Obama not to get involved militarily in Syria and called his red line statement “very dumb.”