Trump hails: Mis­sion ac­com­plished


The Irish Mail on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Si­mon Wal­ters IN LON­DON and Mark Ni­col IN CYPRUS


DON­ALD TRUMP yes­ter­day de­scribed the at­tacks on chem­i­cal weapons sites in Syria by the US, UK and France as ‘mis­sion ac­com­plished’.

How­ever, his tri­umphant tone was tem­pered by a poll yes­ter­day which showed cit­i­zens of his key ally, the UK, be­lieve the raids were wrong – by al­most two to one.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s dec­la­ra­tion fol­lowed the US-led coali­tion’s launch of 105 cruise mis­siles at three chem­i­cal weapons fac­to­ries and stor­age de­pots across Syria. The com­ments echoed Ge­orge W. Bush’s pre­ma­ture dec­la­ra­tion of vic­tory over Iraq in 2003.

The Pen­tagon said all of its tar­gets had been hit, de­spite Syria and its key ally Rus­sia claim­ing that most of the mis­siles had been shot down by air de­fences, while the rest only hit empty sites.

The air strikes were launched a week to the day af­ter an es­ti­mated 75 peo­ple were killed and a fur­ther 500 in­jured, in­clud­ing young chil­dren, in the sus­pected chem­i­cal weapons attack on Douma, a sub­urb of the cap­i­tal Da­m­as­cus.

West­ern in­tel­li­gence agen­cies gath­ered ev­i­dence that con­vinced po­lit­i­cal lead­ers that As­sad was to blame, in­clud­ing ob­ser­va­tions of an army he­li­copter over the city, while aid work­ers told how chlo­rine could be smelled in the air and vic­tims were found with foam in their mouth and burn­ing eyes.

The White House said last night that in ad­di­tion to chlo­rine, the nerve agent sarin was also used in Douma. It said doc­tors and aid or­gan­i­sa­tions on the ground re­ported the ‘strong smell of chlo­rine and de­scribed symp­toms con­sis­tent with ex­po­sure to sarin’.

A se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial said the US had ‘sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion that points to sarin use’.

Pres­i­dent Trump gave the first warn­ing of the attack on Wed­nes­day when he tweeted that Rus­sia should ‘get ready’ be­cause ‘nice and new and smart’ mis­siles would be com­ing. He also told Vladimir Putin he should not be ‘part­ners with a Gas Killing An­i­mal.’

At some time af­ter 1am Ir­ish time yes­ter­day, four GR4 Tor­nado air­craft loaded with the lat­est mil­i­tary hard­ware took off from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Pic­tures re­leased last night by the UK’s Min­istry of De­fence showed the tense fi­nal prepa­ra­tions at Akrotiri be­fore the op­er­a­tion was fi­nally launched.

Each Tor­nado was flown by a twoman crew drawn from the RAF’s 31 Squadron, nick­named the Gold Stars. These per­son­nel form part of 903 Ex­pe­di­tionary Air Wing (EAW) based at Akrotiri. Crews have been con­duct­ing air strikes against Is­lamic State in Iraq and Syria since 2015.

Shortly af­ter 2am yes­ter­day the pi­lots and weapons sys­tems of­fi­cers aboard the Tor­na­dos re­leased their pay­loads of Storm Shadow, as Pres­i­dent Trump an­nounced that mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against Syria had be­gun.

In or­der to avoid attack from Rus­sian-made rocket sys­tems op­er­ated by Syria, the RAF jets re­mained in

All of the tar­gets had been hit

in­ter­na­tional airspace through­out the op­er­a­tion. The mis­siles have a range of 155 miles and trav­elled 100 miles. It is un­der­stood that all eight Bri­tish mis­siles found their tar­gets and caused sig­nif­i­cant de­struc­tion.

The same stor­age fa­cil­ity was also tar­geted by nine US Tom­a­hawk mis­siles fired from a US Navy war­ship in the Red Sea, three French naval cruise mis­siles and two Scalp cruise mis­siles fired from Rafale fighter jets.

The US also launched a huge attack on a chem­i­cal weapons lab­o­ra­tory in Da­m­as­cus thought by in­tel­li­gence sources to have been in­volved in the pro­duc­tion of sarin and other deadly nerve agents used by the As­sad regime.

At around 2am, 57 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles and 19 high ex­plo­sive bombs were dropped on the Barzeh Re­search and De­vel­op­ment fa­cil­ity with dev­as­tat­ing re­sults.

In a de­tailed brief­ing, the US mil­i­tary re­vealed 105 mis­siles oblit­er­ated three Syr­ian regime chem­i­cal weapons sites in a ‘pre­cise, over­whelm­ing and ef­fec­tive’ attack.

Barzeh was the pri­mary tar­get, razed to the ground by 57 Tom­a­hawk cruise mis­siles and 19 JASSM ‘smart bombs’ – used in com­bat for the first time. The second tar­get was Him Shin­shar, flat­tened by the eight Storm Shadow mis­siles from RAF Tor­na­dos, which were es­corted by Typhoon fighter jets. It was also hit by nine US mis­siles and five French mis­siles.

The third tar­get was a nearby chem­i­cal weapons bunker, pounded with seven Scalp mis­siles.

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Ken­neth McKen­zie Jr, staff di­rec­tor of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said all mis­siles fired by Al­lied forces hit their tar­gets shortly af­ter 4am lo­cal time, and de­nied claims made by Rus­sia and Syria that dozens were shot out of the sky by Soviet-era air de­fence mis­siles.

He added: ‘None of our air­craft or mis­siles in­volved in this op­er­a­tion were suc­cess­fully en­gaged by Syr­ian air de­fences and we have no in­di­ca­tion that Rus­sian air de­fence sys­tems were de­ployed.’

He said: ‘Over 40 sur­face-to-air mis­siles were de­ployed by the Syr­ian regime. Most of these launches were con­ducted af­ter the last im­pact of our strike was over. We as­sess that the de­fen­sive ef­forts of Syria were largely in­ef­fec­tive.’

Syr­ian TV broad­cast im­ages of the ru­ins of the sci­en­tific re­search cen­tre that was re­duced to rub­ble, but the regime claimed the attack had lit­tle im­pact.

As­sad loy­al­ists took to the streets wav­ing flags and mock­ing Mr Trump, while a Twit­ter ac­count run by As­sad’s of­fice posted a video of him walk­ing calmly through the pres­i­den­tial palace.

But ar­gu­ments still raged over the le­git­i­macy of the strikes as well as the truth be­hind the deaths in rebel-con­trolled Douma.

At a meet­ing of the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil last night called at Rus­sia’s re­quest, Mr Putin’s en­voy called the air strikes an ‘act of ag­gres­sion’, while UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res urged re­straint to ‘avoid es­ca­la­tion’.

Re­search cen­tre was re­duced to rub­ble

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