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    Donald Trump praises Syria strikes and declares: ‘Mission accomplished’

    Donald Trump hailed the strikes carried out against Syria by the US, UK and France as “perfectly executed” on Saturday, adding: “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
    The US president thanked London and Paris for their “wisdom and the power of their fine Military” in joining Washington in launching more than 100 missiles on Friday night against what they say were Syrian chemical weapons facilities.
    Trump added: “So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had. There won’t be anything, or anyone, even close!”
    Trump announced the military action in a speech late on Friday, a week after the Syrian regime was accused of carrying out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma that left 40 people dead and hundreds injured. The president said he had directed the US military to conduct “precision strikes” against Assad’s chemical weapons capabilities, with targets including a scientific research center in the Syrian capital and two chemical weapons storage facilities west of Homs.
    Trump’s use of “mission accomplished” less than 24 hours after launching the missiles echoed President George W Bush’s infamous 2003 speech a month after US troops were deployed in Iraq. Although Bush did not utter the phrase during his televised address, he stood under a “Mission Accomplished” banner and spoke of how the US and its allies had “prevailed”. The event later became a symbol of the controversy as the war dragged on and resulted in the deaths of thousands of American troops and tens of thousands of civilian casualties. Thousands of US troops remain in Iraq today.
    The Pentagon struck a similarly defiant tone in a briefing with reporters Saturday, where officials labeled Friday night’s airstrikes a success.
    Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said: “We met our objectives. We hit the sites, the heart of the [chemical] weapons program. So it was mission accomplished.”
    Lt Gen Kenneth McKenzie, the director of the joint chiefs of staff, described the mission as “precise, overwhelming and effective”.
    Officials at the Pentagon notably would not set a bar for what would constitute further military action, nor did they directly respond to how the US might respond if Russia or Iran made good on their threats to engage in retaliatory strikes.
    The Pentagon also disputed the Russian military’s claims that Syrian air defense units had downed 71 out of 103 cruise missiles launched by the US and its allies. “The Russia disinformation campaign has already begun,” White said.
    The launch of more than 100 missile strikes drew mixed reaction in Washington, with some calling Trump’s decision illegal.
    “A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria,” Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
    Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, said: “The latest chemical weapons attack against the Syrian people was a brutally inhuman war crime. Yet one night of airstrikes is no substitute for a coherent strategy.”
    Pelosi called on Trump to seek approval from Congress for military action in the region. She said the president must present “a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives”.
    The US constitution requires that any sustained military action be authorized by Congress. Trump, like his predecessor Barack Obama, has thus far relied on a sweeping 2001 war authorization passed in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
    The AUMF, which has not expired, approved the use of military force against those responsible for the attacks, primarily al-Qaida, and “associated groups”.
    The Obama administration justified military action targeting Islamic State by arguing the terrorist group was an offshoot of al-Qaida. A faction of lawmakers in both parties have suggested Trump cannot make the same case for striking the Syrian government.
    Justin Amash, a libertarian congressman from Michigan, condemned Trump’s refusal to approach Congress before employing military options. He said: “These offensive strikes against Syria are unconstitutional, illegal, and reckless.”
    Hours before Trump’s announcement on Friday, 88 Republican and Democratic members of Congress signed a letter imploring the president to consult Congress prior to engaging US armed forces.
    “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.
    “We stand ready to consider the facts before us and share the burden of decisions made regarding US involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict.”
    Republican leaders were nonetheless supportive of Trump’s response in Syria and did not provide any indication that they would challenge his authority.
    Responding to Trump’s announcement on Friday, Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said: “I support both the action and objective.”
    Republican House speaker Paul Ryan said Assad’s “barbaric use of chemical weapons cannot go unanswered”. But he added that Russia and Iran must also be held accountable for enabling the Syrian regime, stating the two countries “have blood on their hands”.
    Trump’s move on Friday came one year after he similarly launched retaliatory airstrikes against Assad’s regime a following a poison gas attack. In that instance, the Pentagon fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on a Syrian government airbase.
    The UN security council will meet later on Saturday at Russia’s request to discuss the airstrikes, according to a diplomat.
    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was set to begin an investigation Saturday at the site of last week’s chemical weapons attacks. The US, UK and France cited their own intelligence to conclude that the Syrian regime was behind the attack, an allegation that has been vehemently denied by Damascus and Russia.

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