'Mission Accomplished': Trump, US allies defend strikes against Syria chemical arms sites

Joann Johnston
April 15, 2018

During a United Nations Security Council meeting held at Russia's request to discuss the strikes, the USA warned that it was "locked and loaded", ready to launch more military strikes on Syria if President Bashar al-Assad's forces carry out a new chemical weapons attack.

President Donald Trump declared "mission accomplished" in Friday night's strike on three Syria targets and argued that it "could not have had a better result".

More immediately, the action is likely to stir more heated exchanges at the U.N. Security Council, which met three times last week to discuss Syria.

These strikes are a retaliation to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's poison gas attack that killed around 60 people last week in Syria. Here are a few key distinctions.

"Last year the focus was on the delivery", Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said on Saturday. He said that the Syrian leader had launched a "savage" chemical weapons attack previously and again recently.

A Syrian military statement said 110 missiles were fired Saturday by the U.S., Britain and France and that it shot down a lot of them. McKenzie said the USA military deployed 76 missiles and destroyed that facility.

Stoltenberg said after a debriefing of ambassadors by the three allies Saturday that "before the attack took place last night, North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies exhausted all other possible ways to address this issue to the UNSC by diplomatic and political means".

"We can not tolerate the normalization of the use of chemical weapons", Macron said in a statement. But there was a clear warning that if the Assad regime resorts to chemical weapons again, then further strikes may well follow. Russian officials had said US and Russian military staffs remained in contact regarding Syria, even as Russian media carried stories in recent days about the potential outbreak of "World War III" as a outcome of a USA airstrike against Assad.

Haley's message came after her Russian counterpart, Vassily Nebenzia, said he would ask the Security Council to condemn the pre-dawn military strikes on Syria by the United States, France and Britain - calling the attacks a violation of worldwide law and the U.N. Charter.

White stood by Trump's assessment of "mission accomplished".

Trump announced the strikes in a press conference at the White House from around 9:30 p.m.

Saturday's meeting, like the one that took place on Friday just hours ahead of the strike that took out a research facility, storage bunkers, and other infrastructure that supports Syria's chemical weapons program, was requested by Russian Federation.

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He said France has "no doubt" that the Syrian government was behind a suspected chemical attacks last weekend . Some civilian injuries were sustained but no loss of life has been reported so far from the air strikes.

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Disputing the Russian military's contention that Syrian air defense units downed 71 allied missiles, Marine Lt. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, said no USA or allies missiles were stopped.

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"Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the constitution", the letter read.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was little doubt the Syrian government used a barrel bomb - large containers packed with fuel, explosives and scraps of metal - to deliver the chemicals at Douma.

Syrian TV reported that Syria's air defenses responded to the attack, and the Russian military said Syrian air defense units downed 71 of the missiles launched by the U.S., French and British ships and aircraft.

Dunford said Russia's forces in Syria had been warned through existing "deconfliction" channels that western planes would be in Syrian air space, but Washington had not revealed the target sites or timing in advance.

Russian Federation said it was being "threatened" and said the air strikes "will not be left without consequences" in a statement from its ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, posted on Twitter.

He also stated that the nation France had "solid intelligence" that the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reportedly was behind the gas attack in the rebel-held city of Douma on the last weekend.

Russian Federation called the emergency meeting following the USA -led airstrikes.

"I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria", he added. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the three countries fired over 100 cruise as well as air-to-surface missiles.

While acknowledging that Assad may retain some chemical weapons capabilities, the Pentagon proclaimed that the action struck at "the heart" of Assad's program.

The European Union voiced support for the allies.

Trump stated that his administration was "prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents".

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