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Chemical attack in Syria unlikely to elicit game-changing response from Trump administration

President Donald Trump speaks about the gas attack in Syria as he and Jordan's King Abdullah (not pictured) hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2017.
Yuri Gripas | Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks about the gas attack in Syria as he and Jordan's King Abdullah (not pictured) hold a joint news conference in the Rose Garden after their meeting at the White House in Washington, April 5, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump condemned the killing of dozens of people in a suspected chemical gas attack in Syria on Wednesday yet his forceful statements are unlikely to be followed up with any kind of game-changing international response, according to analysts at Eurasia group.

At least 70 people were reported to have been killed and 300 others injured in a suspected chemical attack in the north-western Syrian city of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday.

World leaders reacted to condemn the alleged chemical attack with Trump describing it as an "affront to humanity" which crossed "many, many lines".

"The president was clearly angry. But it is far from clear if he either intended to suggest a major policy change, or as in previous instances even (whether he) fully understands the inferences that will be drawn from his statements. U.S. and Western options remain highly circumscribed," Eurasia analysts said in a note.

'Red line in the sand'

Trump offered little detail regarding a new strategy to combat ongoing violence in Syria. However, he said the attack had impacted him profoundly and would now alter his thinking regarding Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Trump did not mention Russia, Syria's ally, during his Wednesday press conference. The Kremlin dismissed criticism from several Western powers for its ties to Assad though Moscow's claim that the chemical incident was likely caused by a depot leak controlled by rebels was widely discredited.

"Time and time again Russia uses the same false narrative to deflect attention from their ally in Damascus," Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said during a UN Security Council debate in New York.

The U.S. President blamed his predecessor for the conflict in Syria. Trump argued the Obama administration had failed to respond appropriately to a similar attack in 2013.

"I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis a long time ago when he said the red line in the sand… And when he didn't cross that line after making the threat, I think that set us back a long way, not only in Syria but in many parts of the world," Trump added.

Syria's support from Moscow renders military intervention 'too risky'

A civil defence member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017.
Ammar Abdullah | Reuters
A civil defence member breathes through an oxygen mask, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017.

Eurasia group analysts concluded the Trump administration would likely mirror the Obama administration by taking no military action against Assad's government.

"Unlike the 2013 Damascus chemical attack (which also elicited no significant response from the Obama administration), the Syrian regime now has active military support from Russia, which renders most military options too risky," Eurasia group analysts added.

Meanwhile, in an interview published Thursday, President Assad declared there was no other option "except victory" regarding Syria's civil war adding his government could not reach an outcome with opposition groups that had attended previous peace talks.

Assad was not asked about the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun during the interview with Croatian newspaper, Vecernji List, though his administration has strenuously denied any role in the attack.

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