McCain: Assad 'emboldened' by Trump signaling Syria withdraw

McCain: Assad 'emboldened' by Trump signaling Syria withdraw
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Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainListen, learn and lead: Congressional newcomers should leave the extremist tactics at home Overnight Defense: Trump unveils new missile defense plan | Dems express alarm | Shutdown hits Day 27 | Trump cancels Pelosi foreign trip | Senators offer bill to prevent NATO withdrawal Bipartisan senators reintroduce bill to prevent Trump from withdrawing from NATO MORE (R-Ariz.) on Sunday lamented that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE's recent talk of withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria appears to have "emboldened" Syrian President Bashar Assad following a reported chemical weapons attack on Saturday.

“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria. Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women and children, this time in Douma," McCain said in a statement.

He added that Trump should respond militarily, as he did following a similar report last year.

“President Trump was quick to call out Assad today, along with the Russian and Iranian governments, on Twitter,” McCain said.

“The question now is whether he will do anything about it. The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes."

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Dozens of people were killed in an alleged chemical weapons attack on a hospital in Douma, Syria, on Saturday. The death count will likely rise.

The latest attack took place almost one year to the day after Trump ordered missile strikes in response to a similar chemical attack.

Trump on Sunday tweeted there would be a "big price to pay" for the most recent attack. He blamed former President Obama for failing to address the crisis in Syria, and called out Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran for backing Assad.

“Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad," Trump tweeted.

His stern remarks on Sunday came after he has in recent weeks indicated he'd like to bring U.S. troops home from Syria "very soon," saying the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is nearly defeated and the U.S. is shouldering a large cost to remain in the region.

McCain on Sunday acknowledged that the U.S. has made policy mistakes in Syria prior to Trump's presidency, but rejected the idea that "we are out of options."

"We can and should change course – starting with a comprehensive strategy that lays out clear objectives for our mission there. It's not too late to stop Assad's impunity and begin to rewrite this terrible chapter in our history," McCain said.