President Donald Trump has a "major opportunity" to differentiate himself from former President Barack Obama by how he handles the reaction to this week's chemical bomb attack in Syria, but he also needs to stop talking about his predecessor, Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass said Thursday.
"It's his way to say 'there is a new sheriff in town,'" Haass told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. "I think in Syria actually, given what he said yesterday, even if he hadn't said it, I believe there is a need to act there militarily.
"There is a whole range of options we can talk about what we might do to penalize the government. It says we are more involved there. It says you can't use a weapon of mass destruction with impunity."
Wednesday, while speaking out against the attack, Trump reiterated claims that Obama enabled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad when he did not take action after a 2013 chemical attack.
"I think the Obama administration had a great opportunity to solve this crisis," Trump said. "When he didn't cross that line, after making the threat, I think that set us back a long way."
What is done or isn't done will also have an impact on how North Korea proceeds, Haass continued.
"I believe it is a necessity for the United States to say to anyone that uses a weapons of mass destruction that they will pay a price," said Haass. "It doesn't mean we go to war or switch to regime change. It means we need to find discreet military actions to possibly help the Syrian people and that will send a major message of reassurance throughout the Middle East,"
Action will also make China understand that it can't allow the situation with North Korea to continue, said Haass.
"This is a major turning point, because the two big issues in the president's inbox are suddenly come toward a third," said Haass. "The Syrian situation will aso make Trump reassess his view of Russian President Vladimir Putin."
"The Russians are saying this is about the rebels," said Haass. "I think when the history is potentially written of this administration, this week could turn out to be pivotal."
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