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Madeleine Albright Says Obama Should Have Enforced the Red Line in Syria

After President Donald Trump criticized former President Barack Obama for not taking decisive action in Syria years ago, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went on television and said that she too wishes that Obama had enforced the famous “red line” on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

During Albright’s appearance on the Late Show on Monday night, host Stephen Colbert quizzed the leading diplomat about whether Trump’s critique of Obama’s Syria policy is the right one. Albright, a Democrat who served as the first woman Secretary of State under former Democratic President Bill Clinton from 1997 until 2001, said she doesn’t agree entirely with Trump’s criticism. But she did disagree with Obama’s decision not to use military action against Assad after the Syrian leader used chemical weapons against his own people.

“I mean, I do wish Barack Obama did put down a red line, and I personally wished that we had followed through on that,” Albright told Colbert. “However, what had happened was that Barack Obama was looking for support from Congress because he didn’t want to do something outside the law, and then Congress would not support that.”

In 2012, a little over a year after the bloody war in Syria had started, then-President Obama announced that the use of chemical weapons would warrant U.S. military action in the Middle East, saying that such a move would constitute a “red line.” But when a rebel-controlled suburb of Damascus was hit with sarin gas in an attack that killed around 1,500 civilians, Obama decided to hold back on ordering strikes and seek approval from Congress instead. Both Congress and much of the U.S. public were opposed to U.S. intervention in Syria at the time. 

Also during this period, then-real estate magnate Donald Trump took to Twitter to urge Obama not to take military action. “If Obama attacks Syria and innocent civilians are hurt and killed, he and the U.S. will look very bad!” Trump tweeted on August 30, 2013.

Nearly five years later, now-President Trump appears to have changed his tune. On Saturday evening, reports emerged from Syria of yet another chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb. Trump immediately declared that the perpetrators of the attack would pay a price. He also lashed out at Obama for not having resolved the issue sooner.

“If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!” Trump tweeted on Sunday.

The tweet came after Trump had spent a week declaring his intention to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.

During a cabinet meeting on Monday, however, Trump pledged that his administration would determine how to respond to Saturday’s chemical weapons attack in Syria in the next “24 to 48 hours.”

The Syrian government has denied its involvement in the attack, but regional experts and analysts appear to think the regime was responsible.