Trump defends Syria strike, praises US military amid criticism

Syrian government forces reportedly conducted an air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern city of Daraa on Saturday despite the US strike on an airfield.
Syrian government forces reportedly conducted an air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern city of Daraa on Saturday despite the US strike on an airfield.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Syrian government forces reportedly conducted an air strike on a rebel-held area in the southern city of Daraa on Saturday despite the US strike on an airfield.
US SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON

Administration officials say attack rendered Syrian airbase inoperable

PALM BEACH (Florida) • President Donald Trump has praised the US military for carrying out a missile attack on a Syrian airfield, and struck back at mounting questions over whether it would help achieve a momentum shift in Syria's civil war.

In an afternoon tweet last Saturday, Mr Trump defended the operation against criticism from some members of Congress and military analysts that the night- time volley of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles two days earlier did not target the runways at the Shayrat airbase in eastern Syria.

Administration officials have said the attack successfully destroyed refuelling stations, hangars and some planes, effectively making the base inoperable. "The reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!" Mr Trump wrote on Twitter from Mar-a-Lago after playing a round at the nearby Trump International Golf Club.

In an earlier message, he said: "Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States, and the world, so well in the Syria attack."

On Capitol Hill, reaction to Mr Trump's action has been mixed, with Republican leaders endorsing the President's belief that he did not need congressional approval to act.

WHY RUNWAYS NOT TARGETED

The reason you don't generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!

US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, on Twitter.

PRIORITY IS DEFEATING ISIS

Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilising the situation in Syria. We are hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions.

US SECRETARY OF STATE REX TILLERSON, in an interview on CBS News' Face The Nation.

But some rank-and-file Republicans, along with many Democrats, have criticised Mr Trump for acting impulsively and betraying his own past opposition to US intervention in Syria.

Despite the strike, there has been "no change" to the US military posture in Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said. The US still hopes to shepherd a "political process that we believe the Syrian people will lawfully be able to decide the fate of Assad", he said yesterday in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos.

Separately, on CBS News' Face The Nation, Mr Tillerson said the first priority for the US remains defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). "Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilising the situation in Syria," he said. "We are hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions."

Mr Tillerson conceded that removing Mr Assad from power could "ultimately" require greater pressure, including military action, from the US or an international coalition, but he said that is not the preferred choice.

Ten days after Mr Tillerson endured an acrimonious gathering of Nato's top diplomats in Brussels, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is due to meet his counterparts from the Group of Seven nations in the Italian city of Lucca today.

He will continue from there to Moscow for meetings with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and other officials.

WASHINGTON POST, BLOOMBERG

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Trump defends Syria strike, praises US military amid criticism'. Print Edition | Subscribe