Trump says 'something should happen' with Assad, US military studies options


US officials portrayed the strikes as an appropriate, measured response and said they did not signal a broader shift in the Trump administration's approach to the Syrian conflict.

The senior USA military officials, who spoke to Pentagon reporters on condition of anonymity, also said U.S. military operations against Islamic State in Syria were unchanged following the cruise missile strike.

Trump's own campaign themes hinted at an inward-looking if not isolationist America.

The swift action is likely to be interpreted as a signal to Russian Federation, as well as to countries such as North Korea, China and Iran where Trump has faced foreign policy tests early in his presidency, that he is willing to use force.

The US says that arsenal was tapped for the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province, that killed dozens of civilians - including children.

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Military cooperation between the two countries was limited to trying to stay out of each other's way, and joint diplomatic efforts to find a political solution fell apart, mainly because the USA and Russian Federation were backing Syrian forces on opposite sides of the battlefield. For Trump, there may be political value there as well.

Trump added that all "civilized nations" should join the United States "in seeking an end to the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria". Trump's action - taken without much advance notice or public fanfare - signals to his allies that he's not afraid to pull the trigger, and that he can operate without extensive global consultations with allies. Despite worrisome allegations of chemical-weapons use by Sudan and the killing by VX of the North Korean leader's half-brother, with but four states not party to the CWC, there is not a stampede of would-be violators waiting in the wings to use chemical weapons. It will then ultimately be viewed as something of a face-saving move at best. On my trip to the region last month, Iraqis and Syrians bemoaned the apparent lack of any US political strategy to keep jihadis from emerging again once ISIS was gone.

USA warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles at the airfield. The president did not announce the attacks in advance, though he and other national security officials ratcheted up their warnings to the Syrian government throughout the day Thursday. He still has a large if exhausted standing army, the Lebanese militia Hezbollah fighting alongside him, the Russians ruling the skies on his behalf and the Iranians to supply and advise him. On the big questions, a question remains: "How did the chemical weapons reach to terrorists' weapon warehouses and from which root?"

The administration has been unusually forceful in calling out Russian Federation over the chemical weapons attack, ending for now any hope of a Trump-style reset in relations. Could these relatively stealthy forces be beefed up, and turned against Assad if he needs further deterring?

In Russia, the government condemned the USA military action as "aggression against a sovereign state".

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At the United Nations, Russia's deputy ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, strongly criticized what he called the U.S. "Whether or not it could lead to WW III depends on how responsible the leaders are".

"It angers and saddens me that President Trump has taken the advice of war hawks and escalated our illegal regime change war to overthrow the Syrian government", Gabbard said. "I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or our posture relative to our military activities in Syria today".

Haley said the USA was prepared to take further action in Syria but hoped it wouldn't be necessary.

But there could be a more complex maneuver in the works as well. For now, the Trump administration has given every indication that the strike was limited, and a one-off.

Anthony Sage, a 42-year-old retired Army staff sergeant, said the attack undermined Trump's "America First" message. If they colluded somehow to remove Assad and end the war, Trump and Putin might both be cast as statesmen. Russian military personnel and aircraft are embedded with Syria's, and Iranian troops and paramilitary forces are also on the ground helping Assad fight the array of opposition groups hoping to topple him.

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One proposal is for the United States to act quickly to set up "safe zones" and take steps to deal with the humanitarian crisis. It also promises to be a sobering experience; his predecessor called Syria "one of the hardest problems" of his presidency. That's a stark contrast with Iraq, where the coalition is allied with both the Iraqi government and the Peshmerga forces of the autonomous Kurdish zone in the north.