US to hit Rus­sia with new sanc­tions

The Sentinel-Record - - FRONT PAGE - HOPE YEN ROBERT BURNS

WASH­ING­TON — 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 gov­ern­ment of Bashar As­sad.

Step­ping up the pres­sure on Syria’s pres­i­dent, U.S. Am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley in­di­cated the sanc­tions to be an­nounced to­day would be aimed at

send­ing a mes­sage to Rus­sia, which she said has blocked six at­tempts by the U.N. 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.”

Trump tweeted Sun­day that 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 de­fenses. 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.

Later Sun­day, Trump sent a let­ter to con­gres­sional lead­ers in­form­ing them in writ­ing of his de­ci­sion to or­der the strike. Un­der the War Pow­ers Res­o­lu­tion, the pres­i­dent must keep Congress in­formed of such ac­tions.

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, de­feat­ing the Is­lamic State group and hav­ing 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 re­it­er­ated that if As­sad uses poi­son gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded.”

French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron said Sun­day that France wants to launch a diplo­matic ini­tia­tive over Syria that would in­clude West­ern pow­ers, Rus­sia and Turkey. Speak­ing on French tele­vi­sion BFM and on­line site Me­di­a­part, Macron stressed that the French diplo­macy is able to talk with Iran, Rus­sia and Turkey on one side and to the United States on the other side.

He said, “Ten days ago, Pres­i­dent Trump wanted to with­draw from Syria. We con­vinced him to re­main.”

The nighttime as­sault on Syria was care­fully limited to min­i­mize civil­ian ca­su­al­ties and avoid di­rect con­flict with Rus­sia, 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 de­fenses, 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 “act of ag­gres­sion.” The U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil 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 spokes­woman. 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.

Although of­fi­cials said the sin­gu­lar tar­get was As­sad’s chem­i­cal weapons ca­pa­bil­ity, his air force, in­clud­ing he­li­copters he al­legedly has used to drop chem­i­cal weapons on civil­ians, were spared. In a U.S. mil­i­tary ac­tion a year ago in re­sponse to a sarin gas at­tack, mis­siles took out nearly 20 per­cent of the Syr­ian air force, the Pen­tagon said.

The U.S.-led op­er­a­tion won broad West­ern sup­port. The NATO al­liance gave its full back­ing; NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Jens Stoltenberg said the at­tack was about en­sur­ing that chem­i­cal weapons can­not be used with im­punity.

In his tele­vised ad­dress from the White House on Fri­day, Trump said the U.S. was pre­pared to keep up the eco­nomic, diplo­matic and mil­i­tary pres­sure on As­sad un­til he ends a pat­tern of killing his own peo­ple with in­ter­na­tion­ally banned chem­i­cal weapons.

That did not mean mil­i­tary strikes would con­tinue. In fact, Gen. Joseph Dun­ford, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no ad­di­tional at­tacks were planned.

Asked about Trump’s “Mis­sion Ac­com­plished” as­ser­tion, White said it pointed to the suc­cess­ful tar­get­ing of the three Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons sites. What hap­pens next, she said, is up to As­sad and to his Rus­sian and Ira­nian al­lies.

Ha­ley ap­peared on “Fox News Sun­day” and CBS’ “Face the Na­tion.”

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