BOSTON (CBS) – Are you ready to go to war with Russia and Syria in the Middle East?
President Trump apparently is, upping the ante in the war of words over the latest chemical-weapon atrocity perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with a tweet this morning that read: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a gas killing animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis was significantly more circumspect today, saying “we are still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We’re still working on this.”
Meanwhile Assad continues to deny responsibility for the chemical attack on civilians, meeting with families from the affected area Wednesday in a show of innocence and concern, even as a top Russian diplomat warns US strikes would be met with attacks on their source, presumably US warships in the Mediterranean.
And for now, our closest ally isn’t seconding President Trump’s missile threat. “All the indications are that the Syrian regime was responsible and we’ll be working with our closest allies to consider how we can ensure that those responsible are held to account,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May.
Foreign policy experts were alarmed by the Trump tweet.
“This is dangerous business,” said Rear Admiral John Kirby (Ret.) on CNN. “It’s real stuff, it’s war, and for a president to treat it like this really offends me deeply.”
And to former NATO Ambassador Nicholas Burns, now a professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, the riskiness of the current situation in Syria was not matched by the presidential rhetoric.
“Small spaces and lots of fighter planes lend themselves to the possibility of misunderstandings and therefore transparency and openness with the Russians needs to be the order of the day,” he told WBZ News. “The president needs to be more careful. He needs to be the stable serious actor here, and I think he failed that test this morning.”