Army Chief: Assad Should Pay a Big Price for Recent Chemical Attack

U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley at the 242nd Army Birthday Cake Cutting Ceremony. (U.S. Army/Daniel Torok)
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley at the 242nd Army Birthday Cake Cutting Ceremony. (U.S. Army/Daniel Torok)

The U.S. Army's chief of staff today said he agreed with President Trump that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should pay a big price for a recent alleged chemical attack on a Damascus suburb.

Under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Gen. Mark Milley testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that Assad's arsenal of chemical weapons should be attacked.

"The President said that Assad is an animal, who killed innocent children by using chlorine gas, and maybe some other form of gas, and he is going to pay a big price. Do you agree with that statement Mr. Secretary -- that Assad should pay a big price?" Graham said, directing the question to Secretary of the Army Mark Esper.

Esper declined to comment on Graham's question.

Milley, however, did not hesitate to answer.

"Absolutely, yes. No question he should," Milley said, adding that Assad's "ability to use chemical munitions on the innocent needs to be significantly degraded."

In a series of Tweets Sunday, Trump called Assad an "animal" and said Russian President Vladimir Putin shared the blame for a suspected chemical attack in a Damascus suburb on Saturday that reportedly killed at least 40.

Trump said Syria would have "a big price to pay."

Graham was one of several Republican senators who was quick to call for a military strike on Assad's forces, similar to the U.S. military's response to a chemical attack on northwestern Syria last April.

Following that chemical attack, the Navy launched 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles from two guided-missile destroyers, targeting aircraft and structures at the al-Shayrat Airfield. The airfield was believed to be the origin point for aircraft used to attack the town of Khan Sheikhoun with a deadly nerve agent.

Graham used Thursday's hearing to continue to push for such a response and added that he hoped it will serve as a warning to potential adversaries in North Korea, Iran and Russia.

"I just hope it's a big price. When it is all said and done that Kim Jong-un says, 'hey, that was a big price,' I hope that the Iranians believe that Assad paid a big price, the Russians believe he paid a big price," Graham said. "I hope that they start paying a big price for supporting Assad."

"The question of whether or not it's a big price is yet to be determined and I would say this -- if after saying that, he doesn't pay a big price, America will pay a big price."

Matthew Cox can be reached at

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