On Tuesday, the White House made a change of plans and will instead be sending Vice President Mike Pence to President Donald Trump’s South American summit. After the chemical weapons attack Syria, Trump will remain in Washington to plan the U.S. response.
“President Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia as originally scheduled,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement. “At the president’s request, the Vice President will travel in his stead. The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
Pence said he was honored to attend the summit and pointed out that last year he “traveled to the region to meet with the Presidents of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Panama to increase the pressure against the Maduro regime and negotiate better trade deals that benefit American workers.”
While Pence is in South America, Trump will be discussing what action the U.S. should take in response to the “heinous attack” in Syria.
On Monday, Trump condemned the attack and said that it will be “met forcefully” and any nation found to share responsibility will “pay a price.”
“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!” tweeted Trump Monday.
In a press conference on Monday prior to a Cabinet Meeting Trump expressed similar sentiments.
“I’d like to begin by condemning the heinous attack on innocent Syrians with banned chemical weapons. It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible,” said Trump. “We are studying that situation extremely closely. We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we’ll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours.”
At least 60 were killed and 1,100 injured in the attack on Duma on Saturday. But both the Syrian government and Russia have denied that chemical weapons were used.
Russian diplomat and the Russian permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia said that Russian military specialists visited Douma and "confirmed that there were no chemical substances found on the ground, no dead bodies found, no poisoned people in the hospitals."
However, multiple sources say the injuries that were caused by the attack are consistent with those being exposed to chemical agents.
"We later discovered the bodies of people who had suffocated from toxic gases. They were in closed spaces, sheltering from the barrel bombs, which may have caused their quick death as no-one heard their screams," said a rescue worker from the Syria Civil Defense.
“The Syria Civil Defence and SAMS believe those who died suffocated as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals, most likely an organophosphate - a compound grouping associated with pesticides and nerve agents,” writes BBC. “The UOSSM also concluded that the symptoms of the casualties were consistent with exposure to a nerve agent, possibly one mixed with chlorine. Dr. Raphal Pitti of UOSSM France said he thought "chlorine was used to conceal the use of [the nerve agent] Sarin". The United States, which supports the opposition to Mr. Assad, said the victims' symptoms appeared to be "consistent with an asphyxiation agent and of a nerve agent of some type.”
France and Britain will also be discussing a forceful response with U.S. officials and Trump this week.
Author’s note: It is likely that a military response will come from Trump. He isn’t one to let something like this go unnoticed.
Editor's note: According to more recent reports, it's now only a matter of time.