Trump’s spokeswoman dismissed this idea, and pointedly refused to say that concern about the risks of a direct confrontation with Russia would hold the US military back.
“The intelligence provided certainly paints a different picture,” Sanders said. “The president holds Syria and Russia responsible for this chemical weapons attack.”
But while the Russian president’s lieutenants continued to up the ante with threats and allegations, Vladimir Putin himself adopted a more statesmanlike tone, in remarks to new ambassadors presenting their credentials at the Kremlin.
“The situation in the world is becoming more and more chaotic but all the same we hope that common sense will finally prevail and international relations will take a constructive path,” he said.
Trump’s tweets were more belligerent. He told Russia: “You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!” He declared that US relations with Russia have plunged to a historic low.
But Trump notably also said there was “no reason for this,” reiterated his hope for talks with Putin to halt a new arms race, and blamed his domestic political opponents for poisoning ties.
Assad’s Damascus regime, which has long accused Washington of supporting its armed opponents in the country’s bloody seven-year-old civil war, hit back at Trump’s “reckless escalation.”
– OPCW to deploy –
Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday’s alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Thursday, while French President Emmanuel Macron is to decide on a response in the coming days, having insisted he does “not want an escalation” and that any response would focus on Syria’s chemical capabilities, not on allies of the regime.
As it looked to head off the threat of Western strikes, Syria said it had invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has blamed the regime for previous attacks, to visit the site.
The OPCW said it would “shortly” deploy a fact-finding team to Douma for an investigation, but US officials said they were working from their own information and would not necessarily hold back.
Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal in 2013, narrowly avoiding American and French air strikes in retaliation for a suspected sarin attack.
That incident, which killed hundreds, also took place in Eastern Ghouta.