US President Donald Trump and his team discussed three options before zeroing in on a limited missile strike in Syria in response to a “heinous” chemical attack on civilians by President Bashar Assad's regime, his aides said on Friday
“There were three options we discussed with the president, and the president asked us to focus on two options in particular, to mature those options, and he had a series of questions for us that we endeavoured to answer,” US National Security Advisor Lt Gen H R McMaster told reporters during a hurriedly convened news conference.
“After a meeting of considerable length and a far-reaching discussion, Trump decided to act,” McMaster said giving the sequence of events.
He said the national security team weighed the risk associated with any military action.
“But we weighed that against the risk of inaction, which is the risk of this continued, egregious, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians with chemical weapons,” McMaster said at the news conference which was also addressed by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“It's important to recognise, as I think everyone does, the chaotic circumstances that exist on the ground in Syria with the presence of a battle underway to defeat ISIS, the presence of Al-Qaeda elements inside of Syria and a civil war that is underway,” he said.
“We feel that the strike itself was proportional because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical weapons attack,” he said.
According to McMaster, Trump was immediately notified after the chemical attack that killed 86 people, including 27 children.
“He was very interested in understanding better the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible,” he noted.
Tillerson said the US coordinated very carefully with its international partners in terms of communicating with them around the world.
“I would tell you that the response from our allies, as well as the region and the Middle East has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action we taken,” he said.
“There was a thorough examination of a wide range of options, and I think the President made the correct choice and made the correct decision. First, to be decisive in acting, acting against this heinous act on the part of Bashar Assad, but acting in a way that was clearly directed at the source of this particular attack to send that strong message,” Tillerson said in response to a question.
“Other things were considered. Those were rejected for any number of reasons. In my view, the President made the exact, correct decision,” said the Secretary of State, adding that the missile strike shows that Trump is willing to take decisive actions.
“This clearly indicates the president is willing to take decisive action when called for,” he said.