Speed Reads

Crisis in Syria

Trump vows 'tough' response to Syria chemical attack 'over the next 24 to 48 hours'

At White House meetings with military and national security officials on Monday, President Trump reiterated his vow to punish the parties responsible for Saturday's suspected chemical weapon attack that killed at least 49 people in the opposition-held town of Douma, outside Syria's capital, Damascus. "If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out and we'll know the answers quite soon," Trump told reporters. "We'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours."

Trump's likely options include a limited military strike on Syrian targets, like he ordered after a Syrian chemical weapons attack a year ago and Israel carried out early Monday, or a more sustained attack on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces; military action against Iranian-backed forces that are supporting Assad; and sanctions or diplomatic retaliation against Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin may bear some responsibility, along with Assad, Trump said, "and if he does, it's going to be very tough, very tough. ... Everybody's going to pay a price. He will, everybody will."

After dining with military officials, Trump was expected to huddle with new National Security Adviser John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We're going to make a decision tonight or very shortly thereafter," Trump said. The chemical attack "will be met and it will be met forcefully," he added. "When, I will not say, because I don't like talking about timing."

Assad's government denies carrying out the attack, calling it "fake news," and Russia suggests the rebels staged the attack to draw a response from Trump. Syria says it has no chemical weapons, though the Syrian American Medical Society says the Douma attack was the 10th use of chemical weapons this year, and U.S. officials believe Assad's government has continued making and using chemical weapons to compensate for dwindling conventional weapon stockpiles.