Analysis by the BBC’s State Department correspondent Barbara Plett Usher places responsibility for Tuesday’s reported chemical attack in rebel-held Khan Sheikhoun, north-west Syria, on President Donald Trump for not having engaged in a campaign of regime change in the country.
The piece for Britain’s state-owned, tax funded broadcaster briefly acknowledges that the culprit for the use of chemical weapons has not yet been determined, reporting merely that Syrian President Dr. Bashar al-Assad had been “blamed”. Rather than placing blame on any of President Trump’s actions while in office, the BBC report instead finds fault with the President for not having taken the U.S. to war with the Syrian government in the first months of his presidency — and presumably Syria’s Russian allies with it.
Noting, “There is an argument that the Trump administration’s ‘hands-off’ approach to Bashar al-Assad emboldened the Syrian President to carry out atrocities”, the article cites perennial Trump critic Senator John McCain who, amongst his other frequent attacks on President Trump, called his Syria policy “disgraceful”.
The BBC notes, in particular, McCain’s criticism of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said the future of Syria’s governance was a matter for the Syrian people.
Usher’s piece reports President Trump’s policy towards Syria has sat on the “back burner” while the new White House has dealt with other more pressing issues at home. The position appears to be broadly in keeping with previous public comments by President Trump on the country including a 2013 Tweet where he called on then President Barack Obama to not attack Syria and to deal with domestic issues instead.
Indeed, the report notes Trump’s present arms-length policy isn’t much of a development from the ultimate position of the Obama years, which was initially enthusiastic to enact regime change in Syria but backed off when it became apparent that this would entail conflict with Russia.
Despite the bold claims in the headline and opening paragraphs the piece later concedes: “To what degree, if any, Trump has contributed to Assad’s sense of impunity will remain a matter of debate.”