Donald Trump yet to make 'final decision' on Syria missile strike
Donald Trump yet to make 'final decision' on Syria missile strike
Airlines warned of possible missile launches into Syria
17 April, 2018, 20:24
Deliberations over how and when to impose punishment for the latest apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria have overshadowed a deeper internal debate over the Trump administration's overall goals there, and whether a US military strike would add to or subtract from their potential for success.
Officials say that Mattis' national defense strategy, which identifies Russian Federation as among the chief threats at a moment when the United States is looking to transition away from the insurgent conflicts of the past 17 years, has provided clarity about the Trump-era Pentagon's top priorities.
He said Syria's air defenses were ineffective and that numerous more than 40 surface-to-air missiles fired by the Syrians were launched after the allied attack was over.
Trump did not detail what a strike on Syria would look like, or whether these would be USA missiles.
In his televised address from the White House on Friday, Trump said the USA 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. "These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead", Trump said.
China, the fifth permanent member, said through its foreign ministry that it opposed the use of force, urged negotiation and called for a "comprehensive, impartial and objective" investigation into the allegation that chemical weapons were used. Trump responded then by launching dozens of Navy cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield. Last weekend's apparent chemical weapons strike, on the town of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta region outside Damascus, succeeded in provoking the withdrawal of remaining rebels from one of the last urban areas they held.
Dana W. White, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman, said to her knowledge no one in the Defence Department communicated with Moscow in advance, other than the acknowledged use of a military-to-military hotline that has routinely helped minimise the risk of US-Russian collisions or confrontations in Syrian airspace.
Mattis said that to his knowledge there were no US or allied losses from the strikes Friday.
While Geneva - which calls for the installation of a transitional government, the writing of a new constitution, and ultimately democratic elections - has foundered, Russia, Iran and Turkey have started their own peace process for Syria, which would be likely to keep Assad in power.
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. He said this was believed to be the main site of Syrian sarin and precursor chemical production equipment.
"It's important to show unity, even if Germany will not take part militarily", she told reporters in Berlin after meeting with Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen and speaking earlier with Macron. "But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted" by Syria and Russian Federation, she said.
Carafano and other national security experts said it was assumed that, should Trump decide to strike Syrian military installations, the United States would inform Russian Federation in time for it to clear its own personnel out of targeted areas.
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Vice President Mike Pence, in Peru for a meeting of regional leaders, said "there will be a price to pay" involving military force if Syrian chemical weapons are used again.
The Syrian government denies responsibility.
"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria", Trump wrote. While several incidents last winter were reported as chlorine gas attacks, USA officials suggested in February that there had been at least one credible report of sarin use. He added that the US expects the Syrian government and its allies to conduct a "significant disinformation campaign", which the Pentagon would rebut with additional information Saturday morning.
Trump, who has often said a commander in chief should never telegraph his military intentions, apparently did so himself, tweeting that missiles "will be coming" in response to the suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people near Damascus. He called on Moscow to change course and join the West in seeking a more responsible regime in Damascus. In a USA military action a year ago in response to a sarin gas attack, missiles took out almost 20 percent of the Syrian air force, the Pentagon said.
A former officer in Syria's chemical program, Adulsalam Abdulrazek, said Saturday the joint US, British, and French strikes hit "parts of but not the heart" of the program.
Mr Trump's UN ambassador Nikki Haley told the session the president had made it clear that if Mr Assad used poison gas again, "the United States is locked and loaded". Syria's capital has been rocked by loud explosions that lit up the sky with heavy smoke as U.S. President Donald Trump announced airstrikes in retaliation for the country's alleged use of chemical weapons. The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider global commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.
US, British and French attack aircraft, including two US Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, launched stealthy, long-range missiles from outside Syrian airspace, officials said. But the description from an ally described things differently.
As of Saturday, neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies retaliated, Pentagon officials said.
In his nationwide address, Trump stressed that he has no interest in a longtime fight with Syria. "As other nations step up their contributions we look forward to the day we can bring our warriors home". At the same time, they acknowledge that containing Moscow's greatly expanded influence in Syria, along with Tehran's, does not fall within their mission there.
Russian Federation has military forces, including air defenses, in several areas of Syria to support President Bashar Assad in his long war against anti-government rebels.
Trump's insistence last week that USA troops should come home from Syria as soon as the first objective is achieved appeared to contradict the understanding of both military and diplomatic officials charged with carrying out US policy.
Under no circumstances should President Donald Trump authorize action against Syrians that could lead to wider military involvement there.
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Russian Federation denied the U.S.'s assessment, saying that Syrian air defense systems intercepted 71 out of 103 cruise missiles. The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation on Saturday took aim at three alleged chemical weapons facilities.
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The government, however, said evacuations from Douma were ongoing and no Syrian government forces had entered the town. The United States claimed to have met its obligations, while Russian Federation said it could not confirm.
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