Trump dodges timeline for strike on Syria

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain R-Ariz. pauses before speaking to reporters during a meeting of the National Defense Authorization Act conferees on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday Oct. 25 2017

With renewed U.S. military action seemingly imminent - and as Trump threatened that the United States missiles would be "nice and new and 'smart!'" - both Washington and Moscow raised the rhetorical stakes.

Pictures and video footage of the aftermath of another chemical weapons attack blamed on Syrian dictator Bashar Assad are hard to take. "Big price to pay". "He will, everybody will".

The US ambassador in Moscow, John Huntsman, said in a video: "Before we took action, the United States communicated with" Russia to "reduce the danger of any Russian or civilian casualties".

Trump on Tuesday canceled a planned trip to Latin America later this week to focus instead on talks with Western allies about possible military action to punish Assad over the suspected gas attack.

General Mattis did not answer a question about whether he was concerned about telegraphing USA moves in Syria.

"We don't simply up and leave. the diplomats without a leg to stand on against people who have no diplomatic inclination", Mattis said. The participation of British and French forces enables Trump to assert a wider worldwide commitment against the use of chemical weapons, but the multi-pronged attack carries the risk of Russian retaliation.

The Syrian government and Russian Federation say the reports of a poison gas assault on the Syrian town of Douma are bogus.

While Geneva - which calls for the installation of a transitional government, the writing of a new constitution, and ultimately democratic elections - has foundered, Russia, Iran and Turkey have started their own peace process for Syria, which would be likely to keep Assad in power.

Assad is not going to be forced out of office. This opposition may have made President Trump pause, yet I don't believe this has been the crucial factor. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "The state of the world can not but provoke concern", he said.


Turkey and the United States are key North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies, but their relations have been strained over a number of issues including Washington's support for PYD/YPG in Syria, deemed as a terrorist outfit by Ankara. "I don't think our strategy would presume a political settlement", said James Carafano, vice president for foreign and defense policies at the Heritage Foundation.

"The intelligence provided certainly paints a different picture", Sanders said. If at this late date the only, or primary, USA objective in Syria - and it is not a contemptible one - is to economize violence and minimize atrocities, the ghastly but optimal outcome is a swift final victory by Bashar Assad's regime. This resulted in mutual deterrence during the next world war, during which poison gas was used only for genocide.

A unilateral military strike like the one ordered past year from U.S. navy ships in the Mediterranean on a Syrian airbase is a possibility but France and the United Kingdom could be involved this time according to Robert Burns, Associated Press' National Security expert.

As a line of deterrence, last year's strike was "not almost as permanent as we would have hoped", Melissa Dalton, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told me.

President Trump said Thursday.

"Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria", Trump wrote on Twitter. This is in contrast to an incident one year ago in which the US government had video and other evidence of certain aspects of an actual attack by Syrian aircraft, which involved the use of sarin gas. During one speech, he said, "We must as a nation be more unpredictable".

As of Saturday, neither Syria nor its Russian or Iranian allies retaliated, Pentagon officials said. "We can't go there unless we go there by accident".

Top military officials were at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss options for Syria, according to senior aides.

Meanwhile, Moscow said the formerly rebel-held district of Eastern Ghouta - including Douma, the target of Saturday's alleged chemical attack - had been "totally stabilised" and would soon be patrolled by Russian military police.

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