Trump claims to be successful in Syria, but chemical weapons remain

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump declared "Mission Accomplished" on Saturday for a US-led missile attack led by the United States on Syria's chemical weapons program, but the Pentagon said the attack on three chemical-related facilities enough others intact to allow the Assad government to use prohibited weapons against civilians if it so wishes.

"A perfectly executed attack," Trump tweeted after US, French and British warplanes launched more than 100 missiles almost unopposed by Syrian air defenses. "I could not have had a better result … Mission accomplished!"

Your choice of words recalled a similar claim badociated with President George W. Bush after the US-led invasion of Iraq. Bush addressed sailors aboard a Navy ship in May 2003 along with a "Mission Accomplished" banner, weeks before it appeared that the Iraqis had organized an insurgency that affected US forces for years.

civilian casualties and avoid direct conflict with Syria's key ally, Russia, but confusion arose over the extent to which Washington warned Moscow in advance. The Pentagon said it did not give an explicit warning. The American ambbadador in Moscow, John Huntsman, said in a video: "Before taking action, the United States communicated with" Russia to "reduce the danger of Russian or civilian victims."

Dana W. White, the chief The Pentagon spokeswoman said that, according to her, no one in the Department of Defense communicated with Moscow in advance, except for the recognized use of a military hotline that helps minimize the risk of collisions and confrontations between the United States and Russia in Syrian airspace. . The authorities said that this did not include giving advance notice to Russia about where or when allied air strikes would occur.

Russia has military forces, including air defenses, in various areas of Syria to support President Bashar Assad in his long war against anti-government rebels.

Russia and Iran called the use of force by the United States and its allies a "military crime" and "act of aggression". The UN Security Council met to discuss the strikes, but rejected a Russian resolution calling for condemnation of the "aggression" of the three Western allies.

Trump's ambbadador to the UN, Nikki Haley, told the session that the president made it clear that if Assad uses poison gas again, "the United States is closed and loaded." [19659003] Assad denies having used chemical weapons, and the Trump administration still has to present strong evidence of what it said precipitated the Allied missile attack: a chlorine gas attack on civilians in Douma on April 7. He says he suspects sarin gas was also used.

"Good souls will not be humiliated," Assad tweeted, while hundreds of Syrians gathered in Damascus, the capital, where they displayed victory signs and waved flags in defiance scenes. after the alluvium at dawn.

The attacks "hit all the whites successfully," White told reporters at the Pentagon. The army said there were three objectives: 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 kilometers from the second target.

Neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies took reprisals, Pentagon officials said.

The US-led operation gained broad Western support. The NATO alliance gave its full support; NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels that the attack was to ensure that chemical weapons can not be used with impunity.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the attack as "necessary and appropriate".

In his television address House on Friday night, Trump said the United States was prepared to sustain economic, diplomatic and military pressure on Assad until the Syrian leader ends what Trump called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. That did not mean that the military attacks would continue. In fact, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said no additional attacks were planned.

When asked about Trump's "Mission Accomplished" statement, White said it aimed at the targets of three Syrian chemical weapons sites. What happens next, he said, depends on Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, director of the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff, said allied air attacks "took the heart out." "From Assad's chemical weapons arsenal, he said that the missiles reached the" optimum point ", causing the level of damage expected and minimizing the inadvertent release of toxic gases that could be harmful to nearby civilians.

When pressed, He acknowledged that part of Assad's chemical weapons infrastructure was not specified.

"There is still a residual element of the Syrian program that is out there," said McKenzie, adding: "I will not say that they will not be able to continue to drive a chemical. "attack in the future I suspect that, however, they will think long and hard".

The Assad & # 39; s Barzah research and development center in Damascus was destroyed, said McKenzie. "No longer exists".

A former Syrian chemical program officer, Adulsalam Abdulrazek, said on Saturday that joint strikes between the United States, Britain and France hit "parts of the heart but not the heart" of the program. He said that strikes are unlikely to limit the government's ability to produce or launch new attacks. Speaking from northern Syria, controlled by the rebels, Abdulrazek told The Associated Press that perhaps there were 50 warehouses in Syria that stockpiled chemical weapons before the program was dismantled in 2013.

Vice President Mike Pence, in Peru for a meeting of regional leaders, said "There will be a price to pay" that involves military force if they go back to using Syrian chemical weapons.

Disputing the Russian army's claim that Syrian air defense units shot down 71 allied missiles, McKenzie said no US or allied missiles were stopped. He said Syria's anti-aircraft defenses were ineffective and that many of the more than 40 surface-to-air missiles launched by the Syrians were launched after the Allied attack. He said the United States did not know of civilians killed by allied missiles.

McKenzie said 105 US and Allied missiles were fired, of which 66 were Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from aboard three US Navy ships. UU And a submarine from the Navy. American, British and French attack aircraft, including two B-1B strategic bombers from the US Air Force. UU., They launched long-range stealth missiles from Syrian airspace, officials said.

A global chemical warfare watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said its investigative mission would go as planned in Douma.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin reaffirmed the Kremlin's skepticism about the allies' Douma claim, saying Russian military experts had found no trace of the attack. He criticized the United States and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for international inspectors to complete their visit to the area.

But British Prime Minister Theresa May said there was little doubt that the Syrian government used a barrel bomb: large containers filled with fuel, explosives and scrap metal: to deliver the chemicals in Douma. "No other group" could have carried out that attack, May said, adding that the use of Allied force was "correct and legal."

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Edie Lederer, writer for The Associated Press, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material can not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.

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