President Trump on Saturday declared “mission accomplished” after approving airstrikes with the United Kingdom and France against chemical weapons production facilities in Syria the previous night.
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!” Trump tweeted.
“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!” he added in another tweet.
Trump announced late Friday during a televised address at the White House that he had ordered “precision strikes” on targets in Syria associated with the government of Syrian leader Bashar Assad. The strikes targeted three sites near the capital of Damascus and in Homs, roughly 100 miles north.
U.S. defence officials were expected to give details on Saturday on the effectiveness of the strikes. Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday night characterized the strikes as a stronger response to Assad than a strike against a Syrian air base last year following a previous chemical weapons attack.
“Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year,” Mattis told reporters in a press briefing at the Pentagon. “This time our allies and we have struck harder.”
“We used a little over double the number of weapons this year than we used last year,” Mattis added. “We were very precise and proportionate, but at the same time, it was a heavy strike.”
Mattis said no additional strikes against Syria were planned.
“Right now, this is a one-time shot,” he told reporters.
Trump announced the new strikes Friday night, which was coordinated with France and the U.K., following a week of deliberation and discussions with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emanuel Macron over an apparent chemical weapons attack last weekend.
The U.S. and other Western countries have blamed Assad’s government for the attack in the Syrian town of Douma last weekend that left more than 40 people dead.
Syria and its allies, Iran and Russia, have denied that the Assad government used chemical weapons. On Saturday, leaders from all three countries denounced the joint U.S.-led strikes, with Russian President Vladimir Putin calling it an “act of aggression.”
Yet Mr Chizhov told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show Russia had “nothing to do” with the poisoning.He questioned how Britain worked out Novichok was responsible “so quickly,” claiming “it can only mean they had some standard” to compare against.
Asked how the nerve agent came to be used in Salisbury he told the BBC: “When you have a nerve agent or whatever, you check it against certain samples that you retain in your laboratories.
“And Porton Down, as we now all know, is the largest military facility in the United Kingdom that has been dealing with chemical weapons research.
“And it’s actually only eight miles from Salisbury.”
Pressed on whether he was claiming Porton Down was responsible he shrugged: “I don’t know, I don’t know… I don’t have evidence of anything being used.”
But he added: “There were certain specialists, including some scientists who today claim to be responsible for creating some nerve agents, that have been whisked out of Russia and are currently residing in the United Kingdom.”
The Foreign Office said there was “not an ounce of truth” in his suggestion of a link to Porton Down.
A spokesperson told the BBC: “It’s just another futile attempt from the Russian state to divert the story away from the facts – that Russia has acted in flagrant breach of its international obligations.”Britain triggered a diplomatic stand-off this week by booting 23 Russian diplomats out of London and severing high-level ties.
Moscow hit back yesterday by expelling 23 Brits, no longer allowing the UK to open a consulate in St Petersburg and terminating the British Council’s activities in Russia.
Experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are set to arrive in Britain tomorrow to test samples of the nerve agent, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.
Mrs May, set to chair a National Security Council meeting on Tuesday, told Tory activists on Saturday: “We will consider our next steps in the coming days.”
Those reportedly include emergency laws to make it easier to seize money laundered through Britain by Russian residents; a stronger visa regime to stop Vladimir Putin’s cronies travelling to London, and forcing Russian oligarchs in the UK to account for “unexplained” wealth.
Banks, energy firms and water companies are reportedly on “maximum alert” to the threat of a cyber-attack.
Boris Johnson will seek to rally the support of the other 27 EU foreign ministers at a regular summit tomorrow.
The poisoning is not on the official agenda of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels, but ministers will discuss Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Mr Johnson will have a chance to meet them on the sidelines.
Today Mr Johnson hit back at Russia’s counter-measures as “futile”, saying “resisting a bully is always risky” but it is the right thing to do.
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Britain should “pull the plug” on state-funded, UK-based TV channel Russia Today.
She said the channel spouts “absurd conspiracies” and “poisons our public discourse”, adding: “Russia is industrialising false information: less an iron curtain these days than a web of lies”. (Mirror)