Trump steps up Syria rhetoric, says 'something should happen' with Assad | Reuters

By Steve Holland and Phil Stewart
| ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE/WASHINGTON

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE/WASHINGTON U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that "something should happen" with President Bashar al-Assad after a poison gas attack in Syria, as the Pentagon and the White House launched detailed discussions on military options.While Trump stopped short of calling on Assad to leave office, the comments were his strongest suggestion yet that the United States may be edging towards a stronger stance against Assad, whose country has been torn apart by six years of civil war. "I think what Assad did is terrible," Trump told reporters travelling with him on Air Force One."I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity and he’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so something should happen," Trump said.

The poison gas attack on Tuesday in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun killed at least 70 people, many of them children, and presented Trump with his biggest foreign policy crisis since he took office in January. Washington has blamed the attack on the Syrian government.A U.S. official said options being discussed by the Pentagon and White House could include grounding aircraft used by Assad's forces, the official added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Such options would also include use of cruise missiles - allowing the United States to strike targets without putting piloted aircraft in the skies above Syria. Striking Assad would put the United States at odds with Russia, the Syrian government's staunch ally, which intervened on his side in September 2015, turning the tide of the conflict in his favour.

The U.S. official did not comment on how likely military action might be or suggest which, if any, options might be recommended by the Pentagon.The official added that U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster had already been in talks on the matter.Mattis will presumably discuss the options when he meets with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida, the official said. Mattis is due in Florida later on Thursday as part of a scheduled trip. (Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Peter Cooney)

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Published Date: Apr 07, 2017 02:16 am | Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 02:16 am