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trump: Trump declares ‘Mission Accomplished’ after limited Syria attack

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WASHINGTON: The United States, Britain and France launched punitive missile strikes on Friday against the Moscow-backed Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria for its alleged, and so far unproven, use of chemical weapons against its own population, risking an escalated conflict with Russia.

Some 100 Tomahawk missiles were launched from sea and by air at Syrian facilities that the US and its allies said were used to make chemical weapons, but which Syria maintained were labs and educational institutions. Television footage showed significant damage to facilities, but there was more sound and noise on the airwaves in the US and the regime in Damascus seemed calm and unperturbed.

Russia too warned that “such actions will not be left without consequences,” but it refrained from immediate retaliation because the attacking cruise missiles did not enter the Russian systems’ “zone of responsibility” in the skies above Syria. The limited attack and restraint staunched for now what could become a catastrophic face-off between the US and Russia.

Russia is said to have thousands of troops and assorted military infrastructure including missile defence systems in Syria but none of it was deployed to thwart the missile attack that seemed focus on specific facilities. The attack, which the US and its allies claimed destroyed a “good part” of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal, was followed by President Trump crowing about its success.

“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted on Saturday morning after elaborating on the mission in a brief TV address the previous night.

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power — military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said emphasising the limited American agenda that did not involve regime change.

“Looking around our very troubled world, Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny, Trump said. “The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”

But he had a message for the two governments – in Russia and Iran – “most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad regime: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep, Trump said, adding “no nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”

Russia denies that chemical weapons have been used in Syria and accuses western allies of falsehoods while baulking at an investigation that would prove it either way. Its narrative is helped by a US record of manipulation and exaggeration about WMDs to wage wars in the past.

In Washington, there were the usual suspicions voiced that Trump was using the Syria situation to deflect attention from his domestic troubles that includes a personal attorney who is in the crosshairs of an FBI investigation and new disclosures about a doorman who was paid off by a pro-Trump tabloid to suppress rumors that Trump had allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock with a housekeeper in the 1980s.

The Syria strike also partially knocked out from the news cycle the new book by former FBI Director James Comey in which he effectively called Trump a mendacious man who was unfit for office. Trump, in turn, called Comey “an untruthful slimeball.”

Updated: April 14, 2018 — 2:01 pm

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