Trump de­fends ‘Mis­sion Ac­com­plished’

But Syria still faces fur­ther re­tal­i­a­tion, in­clud­ing sanc­tions

The Niagara Falls Review - - Canada & World - HOPE YEN AND ROBERT BURNS

WASH­ING­TON — U.S. Pres­i­dent Donald Trump on Sun­day de­fended his use of the phrase “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” to de­scribe a U.S.-led mis­sile at­tack on Syria’s chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram, even as his aides stressed con­tin­u­ing U.S. troop in­volve­ment and plans for new eco­nomic sanc­tions against Rus­sia for en­abling the regime of Bashar As­sad.

Step­ping up the pres­sure on Syria’s pres­i­dent, U.S. Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley in­di­cated the sanc­tions to be an­nounced Mon­day would be aimed at send­ing a mes­sage to Rus­sia, which she said has blocked six at­tempts by the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil to make it eas­ier to in­ves­ti­gate the use of chem­i­cal weapons.

“Ev­ery­one is go­ing to feel it at this point,” Ha­ley said, warn­ing of con­se­quences for As­sad’s for­eign al­lies.

“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will not al­low chem­i­cal weapons to come back into our ev­ery­day life,” she said. “The fact he was mak­ing this more nor­mal and that Rus­sia was cov­er­ing this up, all that has got to stop.”

In Da­m­as­cus, Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar al-As­sad praised Rus­sian weaponry on Sun­day as his gov­ern­ment cel­e­brated vic­tory over rebels in the town where an al­leged chem­i­cal at­tack took place. As­sad made the com­ments dur­ing a meet­ing with Rus­sian law­mak­ers, who later told re­porters that he was in a “good mood,” ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian news re­ports.

In an early-morn­ing tweet, Trump said the strike was “per­fectly car­ried out” and that “the only way the Fake News Me­dia could de­mean was by my use of the term ‘Mis­sion Ac­com­plished.’ ”

He added that he knew the me­dia would “seize” on the phrase, but said it should be used of­ten. “It is such a great Mil­i­tary term, it should be brought back,” he wrote.

Trump tweeted “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” on Satur­day after U.S., French and Bri­tish war­planes and ships launched more than 100 mis­siles nearly un­op­posed by Syr­ian air de­fences. While he de­clared suc­cess, the Pen­tagon said the pum­mel­ing of three chem­i­cal-re­lated fa­cil­i­ties left enough others in­tact to en­able the As­sad gov­ern­ment to use banned weapons against civil­ians if it chooses.

His choice of words re­called a sim­i­lar claim as­so­ci­ated with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush fol­low­ing the U.S.-led in­va­sion of Iraq. Bush ad­dressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 along­side a “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” ban­ner, just weeks be­fore it be­came ap­par­ent that Iraqis had or­ga­nized an in­sur­gency that would tie down U.S. forces for years.

On Sun­day, Ha­ley made clear the United States won’t be pulling troops out of Syria right away, say­ing U.S. in­volve­ment there “is not done.”

Ha­ley said the three U.S. goals for ac­com­plish­ing its mis­sion are mak­ing sure chem­i­cal weapons are not used in a way that could harm U.S. na­tional in­ter­ests; that the Is­lamic State group is de­feated; and that there is a good van­tage point to watch what Iran is do­ing.

“We’re not go­ing to leave un­til we know we’ve ac­com­plished those things,” she said.

Ha­ley said the joint mil­i­tary strike “put a heavy blow into their chem­i­cal weapons pro­gram, set­ting them back years.” And she re­it­er­ated that if As­sad uses poi­son gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded.”

The night­time as­sault was care­fully limited to min­i­mize civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and avoid di­rect con­flict with Rus­sia in Syria, but con­fu­sion arose over the ex­tent to which Wash­ing­ton warned Moscow in ad­vance. The Pen­tagon said it gave no ex­plicit warn­ing. The U.S. am­bas­sador in Moscow, John Hunts­man, said in a video: “Be­fore we took ac­tion, the United States com­mu­ni­cated with” Rus­sia to “re­duce the dan­ger of any Rus­sian or civil­ian ca­su­al­ties.”

Rus­sia has mil­i­tary forces, in­clud­ing air de­fences, in sev­eral ar­eas of Syria to sup­port As­sad in his long war against anti-gov­ern­ment rebels.

Rus­sia and Iran called the use of force by the United States and its French and Bri­tish al­lies a “mil­i­tary crime” and an “act of ag­gres­sion.” The UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil met to de­bate the strikes, but re­jected a Rus­sian res­o­lu­tion call­ing for con­dem­na­tion of the “ag­gres­sion” by the three West­ern al­lies.

As­sad de­nies he has used chem­i­cal weapons, and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has yet to pre­sent hard ev­i­dence of what it says pre­cip­i­tated the al­lied mis­siles at­tack: a chlo­rine gas at­tack on civil­ians in Douma on April 7. The U.S. says it sus­pects that sarin gas also was used.

“Good souls will not be hu­mil­i­ated,” As­sad tweeted, while hun­dreds of Syr­i­ans gath­ered in Da­m­as­cus, the cap­i­tal, where they flashed vic­tory signs and waved flags in scenes of de­fi­ance after the early morn­ing bar­rage.

The strikes “suc­cess­fully hit ev­ery tar­get,” said Dana W. White, the chief Pen­tagon spokesper­son. The mil­i­tary said there were three tar­gets: the Barzah chem­i­cal weapons re­search and de­vel­op­ment site in the Da­m­as­cus area, a chem­i­cal weapons stor­age fa­cil­ity near Homs, and a chem­i­cal weapons “bunker” a few miles from the sec­ond tar­get.

The U.S.-led op­er­a­tion won broad West­ern sup­port, in­clud­ing the NATO al­liance, which gave its full back­ing.

HAS­SAN AM­MAR THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Syr­ian sol­dier videos the dam­age to the Syr­ian Sci­en­tific Re­search Cen­ter in Barzeh, near Da­m­as­cus, which was hit by U.S., Bri­tish and French mil­i­tary strikes to pun­ish Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad for sus­pected chem­i­cal at­tack against civil­ians.

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