Washington (CNN)Sen. Marco Rubio, a longtime hawk on Syria, praised the US airstrike on a Syrian airfield days after a chemical attack on innocents attributed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Following news that President Donald Trump had green-lit the US action, Rubio said on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” that Russia could not fairly criticize the military strike because Russia backed Assad — who is accused of perpetrating the attack on his own people.
“They have no standing to say anything about this,” Rubio said of the Russians.
He said that the move doesn’t just send a message, but amounts to a “significant degrading” of Assad’s ability to carry out chemical attacks.
“This is the area from which those chemical attacks were launched,” Rubio said. “It’s the place you were going to see future attacks come from, particularly targeting innocent civilians.”
Earlier in the night, Rubio tweeted a photo of a man holding two babies and wrote, “Something should happen.”
Rubio also quoted a passage from the Bible ahead of the strikes, writing, “‘Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished’ Proverbs 11:21 #SyriaChemicalAttack”
Earlier, a deputy Russian UN ambassador had warned of “negative consequences” Thursday if the US decided to use military force in Syria.
In the interview, Rubio insisted that the Russians, who have an established military presence backing Assad alongside Iranian forces, were not targeted by the US military attack — but had put themselves “into harm’s way.”
“If the Russians are there on the ground assisting Assad in the commission of these heinous crimes — war crimes — they should answer for that,” Rubio said.
He called their position backing Assad “absurd” and said Russia should be “embarrassed and ashamed” after insisting Assad had turned over his chemical weapons stockpile following a 2013 agreement to do so.
“We know that for the better part of this year Assad has been using chlorine bombs against innocent civilians and population centers, and now … a couple days ago, a nerve agent, sarin,” Rubio said.
UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said last week that the US would not focus on removing Assad from power, but shifted her tone after recent chemical attacks on civilians.
Trump said this week’s chemical attack had crossed “many lines” for him, and Rubio said Thursday night’s decision to lash out directly against Assad may have possibly indicated a firm stance against the Syrian president, which he implicitly contrasted with former President Barack Obama.
“I’ll let them speak for their policy, but tonight’s actions show that the days of being able to act with impunity are over when it comes to Bashar al-Assad,” Rubio said. “There is now an American President prepared to do what it takes to ensure that he does not have the capability, or that his capability to conduct these sort of heinous war crimes is diminished and that he’s held accountable.”
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