The number of deaths from Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on civilians in Syria is still being tallied. Currently the death toll stands at around 100.
But if any of us needed a reminder that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad doesn’t have a monopoly on depraved indifference to human life as that nation’s six-year-old “civil” war rages on, ISIS added nearly three dozen more casualties yesterday via acts of inhuman brutality.
According to Fox News:
Islamic State killers used “sharp tools” to murder 33 people in Syria on Wednesday before dumping the bodies into a mass grave “filled with blood,” a human rights group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the slaughter was “the largest execution operation carried out by [ISIS] in 2017.”
The identities of the dead – men aged 18-25 – were not immediately known, and it was unclear if they were civilians or captured soldiers. “Marks of slaughter” appeared on the victims’ necks, the activists said.
At a press conference in the Rose Garden yesterday, Donald Trump said that the chemical attack, which claimed the lives of “innocent children — of babies … crosses many, many lines beyond a red line,” harking back to Barack Obama’s empty threat against Syria in 2012. His remarks begin at around 0:50 in the video that follows:
Trump also allowed as how the attack altered his thinking about the America’s posture toward this rogue nation, saying that a tougher stance was now needed.
The president’s implied threat was unspecific, though his ambassador the U.N., Nikki Haley, suggested that the U.S. was open to using military action to end Syria’s ongoing civil war. In a reprimand to the Security Council, Haley said:
When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action. For the sake of the victims, I hope the rest of the council is finally willing to do the same.
But ISIS’s actions yesterday should serve as a caveat about the open-endedness of the Syrian conflict. If the administration is giving thought to deposing Bashar al-Assad, it should be wary of the void that would result and that could be filled by any number of bad actors, including Assad’s ally, Russia.
Obama was wrong — and cowardly — to do nothing when Assad gassed his people in 2012 and then doubled down on his perfidy by lying about his “red line.” But Trump would be foolish at this point to jump in blindly.