The Trump administration is turning up the rhetoric on the conflict in Syria. The heated rhetoric could put the United States in confrontation with Russia, which backs the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
In the last few days there has been wild accusations and dangerous ultimatums issued regarding the Syrian conflict.
“We didn’t use chemical weapons in WWII. We had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer declared as he attacked Russia for backing the Assad regime, which has been engulfed in a civil war since 2011.
When offered a chance to clarify a few minutes later Spicer dug in deeper.
“When you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing,” said Spicer to the shock of many in the White House briefing room.
Spicer historically inaccurate remarks triggered swift rebukes as people pointed out that Nazi concentration camps used poisonous gas to kill Jews and others during the Holocaust.
Hitler didn’t use chemical weapons on the battlefield, but used them as a tool of mass murder against his own civilians and conquered populations.
Spicer later walked back some of his remarks.
Spicer’s remarks are the worst of the overheated rhetoric that have emerged since President Donald Trump ordered the recent launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian air base. The attack was an incredible turnaround for Trump, who urged President Barack Obama not to attack Syria under similar circumstances in 2013.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley escalated the Trump administration’s rhetoric against Russia for its support of Assad.
“This is something to let Russia know, ‘You know what? We’re not going to have you cover for this regime anymore. And we’re not going to allow things like this to happen to innocent people,’ “ Haley said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow on April 11 with an ultimatum for Russia that it could either side with the U.S. on Syria or embrace Assad.
But what would the punishment be for Russia, whose military has helped Assad score a series of battlefield successes in the six-year war with Syrian opposition groups?
Russian President Vladimir Putin immediately showed that he wouldn’t back down, saying Russia knew about planned “provocations” to blame Syria’s government for using chemical weapons. He said the U.N. should first investigate the attack.
“It reminds me of the events in 2003 when U.S. envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq,” Putin told reporters on Tuesday. “We have seen it all already.”
All of this tough talk and heated rhetoric could lead to unintended consequences and new conflicts between the United States and Russia.