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The Pentagon is briefing Donald Trump on military options for Syria

Rex Tillerson has meanwhile called on Bashar al-Assad to be removed.

Trump salutes as he disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.
Trump salutes as he disembarks Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House.
Image: Pool/ABACA

THE PENTAGON IS presenting a range of possible military options the United States could take in response to the suspected chemical attack in Syria, a US official has said.

Options include strikes to ground the Syrian air force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis is presenting the options to President Donald Trump and administration officials in response to White House requests, the official added.

Mattis had been communicating extensively with Trump’s National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, the official said, stressing that no decisions had been taken.

Trump yesterday  warned that Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime had crossed a line with its latest alleged chemical attack.

He called the strike that killed at least 86 an “affront to humanity” and suggested some sort of US response.

The US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has also this evening called for Assad to be ousted from power.

The Pentagon has long maintained a variety of military options for Syria, and the United States has been striking jihadist targets in the north since late 2014.

But any US military action targeting the Assad regime would mark a fundamental shift in Syria’s brutal six-year conflict.

Russia has been propping up Assad since late 2015, and any action to ground his air force could be subject to skirting Russian air defences and would carry the risk of inadvertently hitting Russian personnel.

But the drumbeat for military action has picked up in Washington.

Senior Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain said Assad was trying to test the Trump administration and that America must take swift action.

“Assad has crossed a line with his latest use of chemical weapons. The message from the United States must be that this will not stand,” the pair said in a statement.

“We must show that no foreign power can or will protect Assad now. He must pay a punitive cost for this horrific attack.”

© – AFP 2017 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

Read: ‘It crossed a lot of lines for me’: Trump says he’s changed attitude on Syria following alleged chemical attack >

Read: US points finger at Assad after suspected chemical attack kills dozens in Syria >

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