Trump: US, France and UK launch strikes on Syria

President Donald Trump announced on Friday he ordered strikes on the Syrian regime in response to a chemical weapons attack last weekend.

“I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator of Bashar al-Assad,” Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room.

US aircraft and ships were used in the attack, according to multiple US defense officials.

Trump said the strikes were in coordination with France and the United Kingdom, adding that the purpose of the campaign is to “establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons.”

“The combined American, British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power: military, economic and diplomatic,” Trump said.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement that she “authorized British armed forces to conduct co-ordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian Regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.”

Trump indicated the strikes would continue until the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons ends.

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump said.

The President also insisted that the US would not remain engaged in Syria forever under any circumstances. He has previously told his national security team he wants US troops to exit Syria within six months.

“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria,” Trump said from the White House.

“As other nations step up their contributions we look forward to the day we can bring our warriors home.”

Trump told the nation in his address the US “cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny.”

And he described the Middle East as a “troubled place.”

“We will try to make it better but it is a troubled place,” Trump said. “The US will be a partner and a friend. But the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
He criticized Russia’s support of the Syrian regime saying “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path.”

Trump also called out Russia’s promise in 2013 that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.

[CNN]

Trump softens rhetoric on potential Syria strike

President Donald Trump on Thursday softened his rhetoric about potential airstrikes on Syria, a day after warning Russia that missiles “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.'”
In an early morning tweet and later in comments at the White House, Trump attempted to cloud the timing of military action — a day after indicating it was imminent — and said a final decision had not yet been made.

“Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!,” the President tweeted. Trump notably did not rule out plans to attack Syria in retaliation for the weekend’s suspected chemical attack on civilians at the hands of the Assad regime.

The President, however, did not specifically refer to the attack’s timing in his Wednesday tweet, though he warned Russia to “get ready.” In Thursday’s tweet, Trump also suggested he did not get enough credit for US gains against ISIS in the region, asking, “Where is our ‘Thank you America?'”

Speaking to reporters at the White House later in the day, Trump said a decision had not yet been made on a course of action.

“We’re looking very, very seriously, very closely, at that whole situation,” the President said during a meeting with farm state lawmakers. “We have to make some further decisions. So they’ll be made fairly soon.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis echoed the President when he told lawmakers Thursday, “We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria.”
The President will meet with his national security team at the White House on Thursday for further discussions on the US response.

Trump on Wednesday vowed to thwart Russia’s missile defense system in Syria, warning that rockets “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart.'” In tweeting about a potential attack, Trump appeared to publicly telegraph military plans — something for which he heavily criticized former President Barack Obama back in 2013.

Mattis said Wednesday that the US is “still assessing the intelligence” on whether the Assad regime is to blame for the recent suspected chemical attack. Russia has blamed Syrian opposition forces for the attack.

Trump has consulted with US allies, particularly France and the United Kingdom, about a coordinated response to the suspected chemical attack, but officials say they have not reached a firm agreement on scale or timing. The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, was convening a meeting of her Cabinet on Thursday afternoon, at which she is expected to make the case for supporting the US in any military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova warned against a missile strike, writing on Facebook Wednesday that it could destroy evidence on the ground and interrupt the work of international investigators.

“Smart missiles should fly toward terrorists, not the legal government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory,” Zakharova wrote in response to Trump’s Wednesday tweet.

Should the President follow through on his warnings of an attack, two US Navy destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are in position and ready to be called into action, among other assets including jets and submarines.

[CNN]

Trump says missiles ‘will be coming’

US President Donald Trump has tweeted that Russia should “get ready” for missiles to be fired at its ally Syria, in response to an alleged chemical attack near Damascus on Saturday.

“Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!'” Mr Trump said in his tweet.

Senior Russian figures have threatened to meet any US strikes with a response.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government denies mounting a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma.

In one of his tweets on Wednesday, Mr Trump called the Syrian leader a “gas killing animal”.

In another, he painted a dark picture of US-Russia relations but said it did not have to be that way.

The US, UK and France have agreed to work together and are believed to be preparing for a military strike in response to the alleged chemical attack at the weekend.

[BBC]

Trump asked CIA official why drone strike didn’t also kill target’s family

President Trump reportedly asked an official at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) why they didn’t kill a terrorist target’s family during a drone strike.

The Washington Post reported Thursday after watching a recorded video of a Syrian drone strike where officials waited until the target was outside of his family’s home, Trump asked, “Why did you wait?”

The agency’s head of drone operations explained to an “unimpressed” Trump there are techniques to limit the number of civilian casualties.

Trump called for the CIA to start arming its drone in Syria and reportedly asked for it to be started in days.

[The Hill]

Reality

All four Geneva Conventions from 1949 contain “Common Article 3,” which applies to “armed conflict not of an international character.” What does that mean? The U.S. Supreme Court, in the 2006 case Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld, ruled that “armed conflict not of an international character” means a war that is not fought against a sovereign state. (A sovereign state simply means a country with a recognized government.) Since groups like ISIS are not considered sovereign states, that means that Common Article 3 applies to the current war on terrorism.

According to Common Article 3, people who are taking no active part in the hostilities “shall in all circumstances be treated humanely… To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever … violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture.”

Experts said this language would make Trump’s approach a violation of the Geneva Conventions, assuming that the family members were not taking part in terrorist activities.

Trump: Saudi Arabia Might ‘Have to Pay’ For U.S. to Keep Troops in Syria

President Donald Trump said in his joint presser with Baltic leaders that Saudi Arabia might “have to pay” for the United States to maintain a military presence in Syria.

“As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS,” Trump responded to a question. “We’ve almost completed that task.”

“And we’ll be making a decision very quickly in coordination with others in the area as to what we’ll do,” he added. “Saudi Arabia is very interested in our decision. And I said, well, you know, you want us to stay maybe you’re going to have to pay.”

Trump continued:

But we do a lot of things in this country, we do them for — we do them for a lot of reasons. But it is very costly for our country. And it helps other countries a hell of a lot more than it helps us. So we’re going to be making a decision. We’ve had a tremendous military success against ISIS as you know. It is close 100% as I just said. And we’ll be making a decision as to what we do in the very near future. We’ll be consulting also with the groups of our people and groups of our allies.

Reuters White House reporter Steve Holland asked Trump if he is “inclined to pull the troops out” of Syria, to which the president replied:

“I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years. We get nothing out of it. Nothing.”

[Mediaite]

Trump says he will put U.S. military on southern border

President Trump said Tuesday that he plans to deploy U.S. troops along the southern border to prevent illegal crossings “until we can have a wall.”

“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with the military. That’s a big step,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Defense Secretary James Mattis was sitting next to Trump when he made his comments.

Such a move would significantly escalate the U.S. presence along the frontier with Mexico. The U.S. Border Patrol — not the military — is tasked with protecting the border.

Trump has recently reverted back to his hard-line stance on immigration, backing away from his efforts to compromise with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Over the past several days, the president has closed the door to a deal to protect young immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. as children, called on Mexico to step up efforts to detail illegal border crossers and sounded the alarm about a so-called “caravan” of Central American migrants heading for the U.S. border.

“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic…it’s like we have no border,” Trump said.

Trump tied the caravan to the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program that he ended last fall, even though it does not cover people who crossed the border this year.

The president is coming under mounting pressure from his base to secure a policy win on immigration, after he failed to secure $25 billion to build his proposed border wall in a government funding bill.

Trump even floated the possibility of pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico does not take steps to curb the flow of immigrants crossing the border illegally.

The president on Tuesday claimed the caravan is breaking up “very rapidly” in part because of his threat.

Sending troops the border would be an unusual, but not unprecedented, step.

Presidents Obama and George W. Bush both deployed National Guard troops at the border to help stop illegal immigration. The temporary moves came as they were trying to win conservative support for immigration reforms that would allow millions to seek U.S. citizenship.

“The United States is not going to militarize the southern border,” Bush said when announcing the deployment in 2006. “Mexico is our neighbor, and our friend.”

[The Hill]

Reality

A defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity had no immediate details as to how many troops would be used, or what authorities they would have, but said the presence could be similar to the 2006-2008 patrols U.S. military personnel conducted under Operation Jump Start.

In that operation, President George W. Bush called for up to 6,000 National Guard members to secure parts of the border. Eventually 29,000 military personnel from all over the country were involved in the mission, which had a projected cost of around $1.2 billion in then-year dollars.

In 2012, President Barack Obama deployed Army forces from Ft. Bliss to the Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas areas for Operation Nimbus, a joint operation between U.S. Northern Command and Customs and Border Patrol.

Trump: China Trade to Improve If ‘North Korean Problem’ Solved

U.S. President Donald Trump added public pressure to his efforts to encourage China to rein in North Korea, saying Tuesday that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that such action will help improve the conditions of a trade deal with the U.S.

“I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!” Trump wrote on Twitter just before 8 a.m. in Washington.

“North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great,” Trump followed up minutes later. “If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.”

The tweets come after Trump and Xi spent Thursday and Friday meeting at the president’s Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. Trump has long criticized China for exporting more to the U.S. than it imports and vowed during his campaign to be tough on China in trade negotiations.

(h/t Bloomberg)

Donald Trump Personally Profited From Missile-Maker Raytheon’s Stock Jump After His Syria Attack

While the world is dealing with both the implications and the fall-out from President Donald Trump’s missile attack on a Syrian airfield on Thursday, the manufacturer of the Tomahawk missile used in the attack is seeing their stock surge which is good news for their investors — including the president.

As noted by the Palmer Report, Trump owns stock in Raytheon, which was reported by Business Insider in 2015.

According  to Trump’s financial disclosure reports filed with the FEC in 2015, his stock portfolio includes investments in  technology firms, financial institutions and defense firms, including Raytheon.

On Thursday, Trump launched an attack on the al-Shayrat military airfield, used by both Syrian and Russian military forces, hitting it with 59 Tomahawk missiles manufactured by Raytheon. Trump’s attack on Syria was reportedly in response to a deadly gas attack launched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people earlier in the week.

While the Tomahawk attack did little damage to the airfield — with the Syrian air force  continuing to launch assaults from the same base on Friday — investors, sensing an increasing escalation in tensions between two countries and the possibility of war , pushed Raytheon stock up.

Since taking office, Trump has refused to divulge all of his financial information — including his income taxes — and refused to place his business and financial holdings in a blind trust allowing Trump and his family to move money and investments around as they see fit.

(h/t Raw Story)

Trump-Ordered Raid in Yemen That Killed US Navy SEAL Was Approved ‘Without Sufficient Intelligence’

The US military said on Wednesday it was looking into whether more civilians were killed in a raid on Al Qaeda in Yemen on the weekend, in the first operation authorized by President Donald Trump as commander in chief.

US Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens died in the raid on a branch of Al Qaeda, also known as AQAP, in al Bayda province, which the Pentagon said also killed 14 militants. Medics at the scene, however, said about 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

US Central Command said in a statement that an investigating team had “concluded regrettably that civilian noncombatants were likely killed” during Sunday’s raid. It added that children may have been among the casualties.

Central Command said its assessment “seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight.”

US military officials told Reuters that Trump approved his first covert counterterrorism operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations.

As a result, three officials said, the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced Al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger-than-expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists.

The Pentagon directed queries about the officials’ characterization of the raid to US Central Command, which pointed only to its statement on Wednesday.

The US officials said the extremists’ base had been identified as a target before the Obama administration left office on January 20, but President Barack Obama held off approving a raid ahead of his departure.

A White House official said the operation was thoroughly vetted by the previous administration and the previous defense secretary had signed off on it in January. The raid was delayed for operational reasons, the White House official said.

The military officials who spoke with Reuters on condition of anonymity said “a brutal firefight” took the lives of Owens and at least 15 Yemeni women and children. One of the dead was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a militant killed by a 2011 US drone strike.

Some of the women were firing at the US force, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters.

Intelligence gathered

The American elite forces did not seize any militants or take any prisoners offsite, but White House spokesman Sean Spicer said on Wednesday the raid yielded benefits.

“Knowing that we killed an estimated 14 AQAP members and that we gathered an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil — is something that I think most service members understand, that that’s why they joined the service,” Spicer said.

A senior leader in Yemen’s Al Qaeda branch, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, and other militants were killed in the gunfight, Al Qaeda said.

One of the three US officials said on-the-ground surveillance of the compound was “minimal, at best.”

“The decision was made … to leave it to the incoming administration, partly in the hope that more and better intelligence could be collected,” that official said.

As Sunday’s firefight intensified, the raiders called in Marine helicopter gunships and Harrier jump jets, and then two MV-22 Osprey vertical-takeoff-and-landing aircraft to extract the SEALs.

One of the two suffered engine failure, two of the officials said, and hit the ground so hard that two crew members were injured, and one of the Marine jets had to launch a precision-guided bomb to destroy it.

Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Wednesday in an unexpected visit to meet with the family of Owens, who had been a chief special warfare operator.

(h/t Business Insider)