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Trump Pins Blame for Syrian Attack on Obama Administration

White House press secretary Sean Spicer condemns suspected chemical attack in Syria, says Obama administration's red line failure to blame.
Image: A man carries the body of a dead child
A man carries the body of child after a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, on April 4.Ammar Abdullah / Reuters

President Donald Trump said the suspected chemical attack in Syria "cannot be ignored by the civilized world" and blamed President Barack Obama’s administration for not standing up to Syrian President Bashar Assad in a statement Tuesday.

“These heinous actions by the Bashar al Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution,” Trump said. "President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a 'red line,' against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing."

The Syrian government is suspected of carrying out the attack in a rebel-held area of the country. At least 58 people were killed in what would be one of the deadliest attacks of the six-year Syrian civil war, according to the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Obama warned Assad that there would be consequences for using chemical weapons against his own people in 2013. But he ultimately decided not to act, in part, out of concerns that toppling Assad could lead to the rise of an even more radical group.

"Today's chemical attack in Syria against innocent people including women and children is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world," the statement said. White House officials have not, however, say if any actions would be taken.

It is a different tone than Trump struck in 2013 when he urged Obama not to attack and "save your 'powder' for another day."

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the strongest proponents of arming the Syrian rebels, said Trump’s administration will be just as complicit as Obama if the U.S. does not act.

"I want to hear him say we’re going to arm the Free Syrian Army, we’re going to dedicate ourselves to the removal of Bashar Assad," McCain said in an interview on CNN.

"We will not sit by and watch chemical weapons being used to slaughter innocent women and children," he added.