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Former Obama Officials Respond to Criticism of Inaction on Syria

  • VOA News

This satellite image released by the U.S. Department of Defense shows a damage assessment image of Shayrat air base in Syria, following U.S. strikes on April 7, 2017.

Officials of former U.S. President Barack Obama's administration are responding to criticism of Obama for not retaliating against Syria for a previous chemical weapons attack.

The officials maintain Obama proposed strikes in 2013 against Syria similar to those ordered Friday by Republican President Donald Trump but were thwarted by a Republican-controlled Congress that refused to agree with Obama's plan.

The push-back to the criticism came after Trump ordered the missile strikes against Syria for another chemical weapons attack without getting congressional approval.

Syria's latest chemical attack occurred Tuesday on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, killing 87 people, including 31 children.

Trump placed part of the blame for the recent chemical attack on the former Democratic president, saying it was a "consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution."

Republican lawmakers insisted that Obama should not take military action without their approval, according to former Obama administration officials. Trump also called for Obama to get congressional approval prior to any attack against Syria.

"Once you put it in Congress' hand, it became clear at that time that they were not ready to assume responsibility," said former Obama Middle East adviser Dennis Ross.

Former Obama national security adviser Ben Rhodes questioned on Twitter the political objectivity of Republican lawmakers and Trump.

"Times change. In 13 [2013], Speaker [John Boehner] asks Obama how: "justification comports with exclusive authority of Cong [congressional] authorization."

Shortly after the U.S.attack, Obama's National Security Council spokesman, Tommy Vietor, reissued Trump's 2013 tweet demanding Obama get congressional approval.

"What will we get for bombing Syria besides more debt and a possible long term conflict? Obama needs congressional approval."

Obama warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad he would retaliate militarily after a chemical weapons attack killed hundreds of people near Damascus. Several U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea were ready to launch a missile attack but Obama suddenly pulled back after the Republican-controlled Congress and Britain, a key ally, resisted his plan.

Obama decided instead to support a Russian-backed plan that was designed to eliminate Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons.

Friday's U.S. missile attack, the first U.S. military attack on the Assad regime, was a "calculated warning shot" meant to deter further Syrian use of weapons of mass destruction, said Hudson Institute political and military analyst Richard Weitz, in an interview with VOA.

"The strike is also aimed to restore credibility to U.S. threats of military action that had eroded following the U.S. decision to back down from similar action in Syria in 2013," Weitz added.

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