Yesterday Trump told the Russians to better “get ready” because he will be firing “nice and new and smart” missiles at Syria over its “Gas Killing Animal”.
His people clearly didn’t appreciate that and are walking down what he said. The rest of the administration is at pains to convey the decision to attack Syria has not yet been made.
The White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that while Trump holds Assad and Russia responsible for supposed chemical weapons deaths in Douma the decision to strike Syria has not yet been made:
However, Trump has not yet made a final decision on how the United States will respond the White House Press Secretary emphasized.
Sanders then said Trump had a number of options, not just military, and that he was assessing how to respond.
“We have a number of options and all of those options are still on the table. Final decisions haven’t been made yet on that front,” Sanders said when asked about a potential US response.
Meanwhile the Defense Secretary said the US wasn’t even sure yet Assad killed people with chemicals in Douma:
Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday that the United States and its allies were “still assessing” reports of a chemical weapons attack in Syria, and that they are [still] working on options to respond.
Mattis wouldn’t say whether he has seen enough evidence to blame Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government for the attack that reportedly killed at least 49 civilians in Douma over the weekend.
“We’re still assessing the intelligence, ourselves and our allies. We’re still working on this,” Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon prior to meeting with defense officials from the Netherlands.
Weeks ago Trump was saying the US was leaving Syria and the rest of the White House was trying to say that wasn’t going to happen without contradicting him too brazenly.
Now similarly his people are trying to say no matter what the Twitterer-in-chief says Syria strikes are not a done deal yet either.
This may have to do with a LA Times report saying the US military is having a hard time coming up with a strike plan big enough to satisfy Trump that doesn’t put Russian troops in danger and risks things getting out of hand:
As Pentagon planners ready a possible military response to a suspected poison gas attack in Syria, one danger has sparked special concern — whether U.S. airstrikes may inadvertently kill Russian soldiers in Syria and escalate the regional war into a confrontation between Washington and Moscow.
The chances of a potential clash would increase if President Trump opts for a heavy bombardment, employing not only Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from Navy ships offshore — as he did last year after a previous chemical attack — but also manned bombers and other warplanes to strike multiple targets in Syria, current and former officials say.
“Most likely what the U.S. will do is warn the Russians in advance and then use missile strikes to target Assad regime facilities of some sort” instead of a wider bombing campaign, said Ilan Goldenberg, a Syria expert at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington policy analysis organization.
If Trump approves a more punishing campaign, U.S. commanders are likely to insist on taking out Syria’s air defense systems, which reportedly include sophisticated Russian-supplied S-400 ground-to-air missile batteries.
Pentagon officials would be wary about telling Russia the timing or targets of an air raid, fearing Moscow would pass the intelligence to Assad’s forces and help them shoot down allied jets.
As for the Russians, their reaction to Trump’s promise of missiles was to say they a.) “don’t do Twitter diplomacy” (what diplomacy?) and b.) hoped sense would prevail — which the world agrees was a little bit more presidential than hysterics on Twitter.