White House blames deadly chemical attack in Syria on Obama administration

Sean Spicer.
(Image credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday addressed the deadly chemical attack in northwest Syria, which reportedly killed 100 people and injured hundreds more in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. "Today's chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world," Spicer said, calling the incident "heinous."

Spicer pointed the finger at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, though it is not yet clear whether Syrian or Russian jets were responsible for the attack as both countries' forces have been battling rebels in the area. But Spicer also lay blame at the feet of former President Barack Obama, saying the attack was "a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution." "President Obama said in 2012 he would establish a 'red line' against the use of chemical weapons and did nothing," Spicer said.

During a speech in 2012, Obama indicated the use of chemical weapons in Syria would warrant U.S. military intervention, saying: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is [if] we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus." A year later, more than 1,000 civilians were killed in a chemical weapons attack in Syria, but rather than use force, the Obama administration chose to deploy "coercive diplomacy" rather than order airsrikes.

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The use of chemical weapons is explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Convention. Spicer on Tuesday declined to elaborate on any plans by President Trump to respond to the chemical attack, but did say he felt removing Assad from power would be "in the best interest of the Syrian people."

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