President Donald Trump must follow through on his threat of a “big price to pay” after a suspected chemical attack in Syria, or risk losing credibility in dealings with North Korea and other U.S. adversaries, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said.
Trump responded on Twitter Sunday after rescue workers and activists said more than 40 people died in a chemical assault, amid renewed fire by Bashar al-Assad’s government on a rebel stronghold near Damascus. The president suggested the U.S. wouldn’t sit idly by, tweeting that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran “are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay.”
“If it becomes a tweet without meaning, then he has hurt himself in North Korea,” Graham, a member of the Armed Services Committee who has often criticized the president, said on ABC News’s “This Week” on Sunday. “If he doesn’t follow through and live up to that tweet, he’s going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran. So this is a defining moment, Mr. President.”
Trump responded a year ago to a previous allegation of chemical warfare with a missile strike in Syria. Graham called that a “one-and-done” attack, and that Assad sees U.S. resolve breaking with Trump’s call on April 3 to withdraw American forces from Syria quickly. Graham suggested destroying Assad’s air force.
“They see our determination to stay in Syria waning,” Graham said. “And it’s no accident they used chemical weapons.”
Asked whether the U.S. will strike Syria with missiles again, U.S. Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert said Sunday on ABC he “wouldn’t take anything off the table.”
Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that a targeted attack on Syrian facilities “may be an option that we should consider now” and that Trump will have to reconsider withdrawing from Syria.
Collins also called for Trump to escalate pressure and sanctions on Russia to affect its support of Assad.
“Without the support of Russia, I do not believe that Assad would still be in office,” Collins said.