Trump calls out Putin for backing 'Animal Assad' in Syria

Donald Trump, Bashar Assad and Vladimir Putin. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Image, Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

President Trump blamed Russia and Iran for backing Syrian dictator Bashar Assad after reports of further suffering for Syrian civilians at the hands of their own government — calling out Vladimir Putin specifically.

Trump delivered his critique of the Russian leader during a Sunday-morning tweetstorm that covered a variety of topics and struck out at more common targets of Trump’s anger, such as the U.S. news media and former President Barack Obama.

According to Syrian medical groups, Assad’s government launched a chemical attack against civilians in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Ghouta late Saturday — killing dozens. The Syrian government denies the reports and claims the rebels are fabricating news.

Slideshow: Deadly gas attack in rebel-held Douma, in Syria’s eastern Ghouta >>>

In response, Trump coined a new nickname for the Syrian president, “Animal Assad,” and said Putin has a “big price to pay,” despite his well-known reluctance to criticize the Russian president.

Trump also condemned Obama for failing to take action to end the protracted Syrian civil war after drawing a proverbial “red line” over the use of chemical weapons.

In 2013, the Syrian military used chemical weapons against its own people — killing nearly 1,500 civilians. Critics said Obama’s controversial decision not to retaliate with the military humiliated the United States and emboldened Russian aggression in the region. His supporters, however, generally argue that avoiding further violence was the better choice of two bad options.

Trump’s penchant for demeaning nicknames and disparaging political enemies is well-known, but his refusal to criticize Putin has been a cause for concern for many Americans. Last month, Trump said that he congratulated Putin on his reelection during a “very good call” and expects to meet with him in the “not-to-distant future.”

In a statement on Sunday, Russia’s foreign ministry insisted that the Assad regime is legitimate and did not use chemical weapons. The ministry called the allegations to the contrary “provocations.”

“We must once more warn that a military intervention under far-fetched and fabricated pretexts in Syria, where there are Russian soldiers at the request of the legitimate Syrian government, is absolutely unacceptable and could have the most dire consequences,” the Russian foreign ministry said.

“The goal of this speculation,” the ministry continued, “is to cover for the terrorists and the radical opposition who are rejecting a political settlement.”

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