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US will respond if Syria’s Assad uses chemical weapons, Trump says

Vice President Mike Pence, seated with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly, listens as President Donald J. Trump addresses the 73rd session of the U.N. General Assembly Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
September 25, 2018

The U.S. will respond to Syria if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons on its people, President Donald Trump said Tuesday while addressing the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

“The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking,” Trump said as he addressed hundreds of world leaders and their representatives. “Our shared goals must be the de-escalation of conflict there.”

“The U.S. will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime,” he added.

The U.S. had earlier this month issued a severe warning to Syria, saying it and its allies will respond “swiftly and appropriately” if Bashar al-Assad were to use chemical weapons to attack people in Syria, the White House said.

Tensions have recently heightened in the country, as the impending threat of an attack has risen while Syrian government troops gather.

Both the U.S. and France have recently issued warnings to Assad, as well as his Russian and Iranian allies, about using chemical weapons in Idlib, one of the last provinces in Syria where thousands of rebel fighters are holding out.

The BBC had reported that planes allegedly from Russia had bombed rebel-held areas in Idlib, but Russia denied the airstrike claims; the claims remained unconfirmed Tuesday afternoon.

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders released a statement earlier this month saying:

The United States is closely monitoring the situation in Idlib province, Syria, where millions of innocent civilians are under threat of an imminent Assad regime attack, backed by Russia and Iran. President Donald J. Trump has warned that such an attack would be a reckless escalation of an already tragic conflict and would risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Let us be clear, it remains our firm stance that if President Bashar al-Assad chooses to again use chemical weapons, the United States and its Allies will respond swiftly and appropriately. The United States will continue to work tirelessly with its Allies to find a lasting diplomatic solution to resolve the hostilities in Syria under the auspices of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254.

President Trump had also tweeted, “President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!”

National Security Advisor John Bolton said Aug. 23 that the U.S. would respond “forcefully” to chemical weapons attacks, Bloomberg had reported.