Reports indicate that the trilateral airstrikes on Syria may not achieve their stated goal: To hobble Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's ability to manufacture chemical weapons. But it may still be mission accomplished as far as the Trump administration is concerned. This week, officials said the U.S. went forward with the bombing primarily to validate President Trump's tweets.
New York magazine reports that an Apr. 11 "Fox & Friends" segment on Syria and Russia moved Trump to respond in real time. "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria," he wrote that day, shortly before 7am. "Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"
The tweet followed Trump's statement just weeks earlier that he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria.
Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to hold off on military action until Congressional authorization had been obtained, but the president insisted on an immediate strike.
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Trump "wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia," reported the New York Times on Tuesday. "Mr. Trump’s drumbeat of threats last week of a sharp response to the suspected gas attacks all but guaranteed that the United States military would strike Syria, according to two Defense Department officials who spoke on condition of anonymity … Mr. Trump did not necessarily want to hit Syria hard enough to bring Russia into the war, administration officials said. But he did want to appear aggressive in his response."
Ultimately, Trump enlisted the cooperation of French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May in carrying out a series of air strikes, which destroyed three targets related to chemical weapons. But Assad's capabilities are scattered throughout the country.
"U.S. assessments following the U.S., British and French missile strikes on Syria show they had only a limited impact on President Bashar al-Assad’s ability to carry out chemical weapons attacks," reported Reuters on Wednesday. "The conclusion contrasts with the Trump administration’s assertion that the strikes on Saturday hit at the heart of Assad’s chemical weapons program."
But Trump got to send his "Mission Accomplished" tweet. Then a follow-up defending the "Mission Accomplished" tweet.
"The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term 'Mission Accomplished.' I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!" he wrote on Apr. 15.
The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term “Mission Accomplished.” I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 15, 2018