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President Trump declared “Mission Accomplished” hours after U.S. and European forces bombarded three Syrian chemical weapons facilities with 105 missiles — with none intercepted by Syrian or Russian defenses.
“A perfectly executed strike last night,” Trump said in a tweet yesterday. “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!”
The Pentagon said Syria fired 40 surface-to-air missiles, but most were launched after the damage was done.
“We’ve attacked the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. “We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets. At the end of the strike mission, all our aircraft safely returned to their bases.”
McKenzie admitted the strike did not wipe out all of the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capabilities.
“There is still a residual element of the Syrian program that is out there,” McKenzie said, adding, “I’m not going to say they’re going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future. I suspect, however they’ll think long and hard about it.”
The strike Friday night was in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime April 4 against a rebel stronghold outside Damascus in the town of Douma. The World Health Organization said 70 were killed in the attack, with 43 dying from chemical exposure. Defense Secretary James Mattis said the U.S. is certain that chlorine was used in the attack and has not ruled out the possibility that the nerve agent sarin was present as well.
No military response from any actors in Syria — including Iran and Russia — has been seen, the Pentagon said.
Experts warned the strikes could escalate tensions with Russia and Iran if any of their troops became casualties in the retaliatory attack. While this round of missiles kept clear of killing Russians or Iranians, the next strike might not be so lucky, said Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations.
“None of these military actions are large enough to deter chemical-weapons use when Assad thinks it’s strongly in his advantage. There’s no reason to think this one won’t after the first one didn’t. There will be more of these,” Biddle said. “The next one you get, the next chance to roll the dice and kill a Russian.”
Russia called an emergency meeting of the United Nation’s Security Council to introduce a resolution condemning the “aggression” of the joint strike from U.S., British and French forces. The resolution did not pass.
Trump’s U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she spoke with the president yesterday morning and he reiterated that American forces wouldn’t hesitate to strike if Assad used chemical weapons again.
“If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded. When our President draws a red line, our President enforces the red line,” Haley said. “We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will.”
The U.S.-led operation won broad Western support. The NATO alliance gave its full backing; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the attack was about ensuring that chemical weapons cannot be used with impunity.
A global chemical warfare watchdog group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said its fact-finding mission would go on as planned in Douma. ___
This article is written by Brian Dowling from Boston Herald and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.