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The latest news on Syria from Business Insider

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    Syria Attack

    The United States is looking into whether Russia participated in the Syrian chemical weapons attack that provoked President Donald Trump's airstrikes against the Assad government, a revelation that could have dramatic implications for relations between Washington and Moscow.

    On Friday, senior U.S. military officials said a drone belonging to either Russia or Syria was seen hovering over the site of the chemical weapons attack after the assault earlier this week. Russia is one of Syria's most important patrons and has long resisted U.S. efforts to push President Bashar Assad from power.

    Even as Trump advisers insisted that Thursday night's U.S. missile strike did not mark a significant shift in American policy, he called on other nations to help "end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria."

    The president approved the strike while in Florida for a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He did not respond to shouted questions about the assault from reporters as he opened meetings with Xi on Friday.

    The strikes —59 missiles launched from the USS Ross and USS Porter — hit the government-controlled Shayrat air base in central Syria, where U.S. officials say the Syrian military planes that dropped the chemicals had taken off. The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. in Washington, 3:45 Friday morning in Syria. The missiles targeted the base's airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.

    Russia condemned the move as an act of "aggression." But there was widespread praise from other nations, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which support the Syrian opposition.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May's office says the action was "an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks." France, Italy and Israel also welcomed the strikes.

    In Washington, Republican leaders applauded Trump's actions, despite the president launching the strike without congressional authorization. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called Trump's decision "entirely correct."

    "I think the president had the authority to do what he did, and I'm glad he did it," McConnell said.

    Democrats were muted in their response. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, R-Calif., said the strikes were "a limited but necessary response" and called on Trump to "develop a comprehensive strategy to end Syria's civil war."

    US Syria missile strike

    The Syrian military said at least 7 people were killed and several were wounded in the strikes on the air base.

    The U.S. assault marked a striking reversal for Trump, who warned as a candidate against the U.S. being pulled into the Syrian civil war that began six years ago.

    U.S. officials placed some of the blame on Russia, which has brokered a 2013 agreement with Washington to strip Syria of its chemical weapons stockpiles. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Florida with Trump, said Moscow had failed to live up to its obligations.

    "Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of the agreement," Tillerson said.

    The U.S. Tomahawk missiles, fired from warships in the Mediterranean Sea, targeted an air base in retaliation for the attack that America believes Syrian government aircraft launched with the nerve agent sarin mixed with chlorine gas. 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.

    The strike came as Trump was hosting Xi in meetings focused in part on another pressing U.S. security dilemma: North Korea's nuclear program. Trump's actions in Syria could signal to China that the new president isn't afraid of unilateral military steps, even if key nations like China are standing in the way.

    Trump had advocated greater counterterrorism cooperation with Russia, Assad's most powerful military backer. Just last week, the Trump administration signaled the U.S. was no longer interested in trying to push Assad from power over his direction of a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and led to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

    U.S. 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. But there could be other problems. 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.

    Before the strikes, U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack. The goal was to avoid any accident involving Russian forces.

    Nevertheless, Russia's Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the "shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise."

    The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin believes that the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base is an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law." Iran's foreign ministry also condemned the strike and called it a violation of international law.

    The U.S. also notified its partner countries in the region prior to launching the strikes.

    Trump's decision to attack Syria came three-and-a-half years after President Barack Obama threatened Assad with military action after an earlier chemical weapons attack killed hundreds outside Damascus. Obama had declared the use of such weapons a "red line." At the time, several American ships in the Mediterranean were poised to launch missiles, only for Obama to abruptly pull back after key U.S. ally Britain and the U.S. Congress balked at his plan.

    He opted instead for the Russian-backed plan that was supposed to remove and eliminate Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.

    The world learned of the chemical attack earlier in the week in footage that showed people dying in the streets and bodies of children stacked in piles. The international outcry fueled an emotional response from Trump, who appeared to abandon his much-touted "America First" vision for a stance of humanitarian intervention, akin to that of previous American leaders.

    The show of force in Syria raises legal questions. It's unclear what authority Trump is relying on to attack another government. When Obama intervened in Libya in 2011, he used a U.N. Security Council mandate and NATO's overall leadership of the mission to argue that he had legal authority — arguments many Republicans opposed. Trump can't rely on either justification here.

    SEE ALSO: A deadly chemical attack in Syria earlier this week sparked US missile strikes — here's what happened

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    NOW WATCH: Children who eat too much sugar are developing diseases that only alcoholics used to get


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    U.S. President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast event in Washington, U.S., February 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

    The timing of Syrian President Bashar Assad's chemical attack on his own people probably wasn't an accident.

    Assad's military launched its brutal attack on civilians — using substances he had vowed to get rid of under a deal struck with Russia and the Obama administration in 2013 — mere months after US President Donald Trump took office.

    Now Trump has sent a signal that Assad's actions won't go unpunished.

    On Thursday night, the US launched a salvo of 59 cruise missiles on Shayrat airfield and nearby Syrian military infrastructure in response to the chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Tuesday.

    Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Assad's latest attack seemed to be a test of how the new US president would react.

    Assad's father, the former president of Syria, "mastered this way of testing his enemies and doing just enough to keep enemies at bay while retaining the options to continue to do bad things," Cook told Business Insider.

    "That's clearly what Assad did with chemical weapons."

    Cook explained that as the new administration in the US seemed to signal a change in policy — on the campaign trail, Trump talked about closing US borders to Syrian refugees — Assad might have decided to see what he could get away with.

    "For the life of me, I can't understand the strategic value of using the chemical weapons in this town," Cook said. "It seemed to be a way to see how the Trump administration is going to respond."

    It remains to be seen whether this strike against Assad's military represents a major shift in US policy toward Syria. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that he "would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today."

    Fred Hof, the director of the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and former US special adviser on Syria, told Business Insider that the strike would "either be a one-time, one-off, fire-and-forget retaliation for a heinous chemical weapons assault on civilians, or it will serve as a signal to the Assad regime and its allies that the free ride for mass murder in Syria is now over."

    Assad's atrocities against civilians aren't new. He has for years used everything but nerve gas — including chemical weapons like chlorine — to bomb schools, marketplaces, and hospitals. The attacks have been well-documented but have not inspired international action.

    "Assad struck with chemicals because his sense of impunity had over years of Western apathy and inaction become absolute," Hof said.

    The Obama administration never directly struck the Assad regime.

    President Barack Obama in 2012 drew a "red line," threatening military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons. Once evidence surfaced of such an attack in 2013, Obama backed off his threat of military force and instead opted to cut a deal in which Assad agreed to remove his stockpile of chemical weapons, including the nerve agent his forces are thought to have used this week.

    Some experts have argued that this inaction from the US had emboldened the Assad regime.

    With the latest attack, "perhaps [Assad] wished to demonstrate to his opponents that further resistance was useless, that the world would do nothing in response," Hof said. "Clearly, he miscalculated."

    Still, if Assad continues his attacks on civilians using other weapons and the US does nothing, the US strike "will go down in history as a useless, empty gesture," Hof said.

    It's likely that the Trump administration will be tested again in the future.

    After the US strike, the Syrian army accused the US of "blatant aggression" and said it would respond by continuing to "crush terrorism." The Assad regime considers any opposition forces, including the rebels who are trying to remove him from power, to be terrorists. The regime also has not distinguished civilians from combatants in the past.

    "If the strikes of April 6, 2017, end the Assad crime wave against Syrian civilians, good," Hof said. "If they do not, further action will be essential."

    SEE ALSO: US launches more than 50 cruise missiles at Assad regime airfield over Syrian chemical attack

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    NOW WATCH: ADMIRAL McRAVEN: Attacking Syria was 'the exact right thing to do'


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    US President Donald Trump arrives to deliver a statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airfield, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, on April 6, 2017.

    Lawmakers slammed President Donald Trump for not seeking congressional approval before his strike on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's military infrastructure on Thursday night, and while he could use their support — he didn't need it.

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called the move an "ill-thought out military action" that "exposes the immoral hypocrisy of this administration's policy in the Middle East,"in a statement.

    In 2011 former President Barack Obama did not seek Congress' approval to carry out a strike on Libya's Mummar Qaddafi.

    Later, in 2016, Obama did not seek Congress' approval to strike Houthi-controlled radar sites in Yemen after the Houthis had targeted US Navy ships with anti-ship guided missiles.

    "The law as to declaration of war is very clear in the constitution," Lawrence Brennan, a former US Navy captain and expert on maritime law, told Business Insider. "Having said that," he added, the constitutional law on declaring war "has not been followed since World War II."

    The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973 over then-President Richard Nixon's veto, enshrined Congress' right to approve or reject military action that lasts longer than 60 days. For now, the Trump administration has given every indication that the strike was limited, and a one-off.

    Speaking about the cruise missile strike at a briefing late on Thursday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that [the strike] to a change in our policy or posture relative to our military activities in Syria today. There has been no change in that status.”

    U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

    However, "at the end of the game, Congress controls the budget. They can do what Congress did with Ford at the end of the Vietnam war — cut off the funding," said Brennan.

    So while Trump acted within the legal and practical norms of the presidency with his unilateral strike on Syria, congressional authorization for limited strikes is "lawfully not required, but practically, often a good thing," according to Brennan.

    Syria strike map

    SEE ALSO: Russia just suspended key military agreements with the US — raising the risk of war

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    NOW WATCH: Here are the countries the US sells the most weapons to


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    Khalid al Falih Saudi Arabia

    Oil prices spiked after the United States launched 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat airfield in Syria and nearby military infrastructure controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of the country on Monday.

    Both West Texas Intermediate crude, the US domestic benchmark, and Brent crude, the international benchmark, climbed to one-month highs in overnight trade.

    The oil price spike happened even though there is no significant short-term supply disruption, given that Syria's oil production had already mostly gone offline amid the ongoing conflict, which has wreaked havoc on the country's economy.

    But if the crisis intensifies, there could be consequences for other major oil players like Russia and Iran.

    "The upshot is that whilst increased tensions in the Middle East could support the prices of oil and gold in the short term, we expect fundamentals to reassert themselves as the main driver of prices over the remainder of the year," Thomas Pugh, commodities economist at Capital Economics, wrote.

    "As such, the jump in the prices of oil indicates that investors are concerned about the potential for the conflict to escalate to major producers nearby," he wrote. "Indeed, the big fear [among investors] seems to be that this military strikes suggests that President Trump could be taking a more interventionist approach to the region."

    Helima Croft, global head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets, argued in a note to clients that although there are no major short-term production outage risks, there remain a couple longer-term questions to keep an eye in relation to energy markets.

    First, could new strains between Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council states emerge, which could then derail future cooperation on oil policy? Second, could the US strikes upend the dynamics of Iran's upcoming presidential elections?

    On the first question, Russia has so far been able to maintain support for Assad and warm relations with Iran while cooperating on energy policy with GGC countries, including Saudi Arabia. Most recently, Russia joined in on the OPEC production cut.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin himself came out in favor of coordinating with the cartel back in October amid the continued corrosiveness of lower oil prices. Reuters later reported that Putin played a "crucial role" as an intermediary between Iran and Saudi Arabia to get the OPEC deal done in November.

    "Therefore, Syria was not an intractable obstacle for Moscow in working with key Sunni states. However, it will be important to watch whether Syria does emerge as something of a deal breaker in the wake of the conflict's altered dynamics," according to Croft.

    As for the second point, regarding Iran's elections, Croft wrote (emphasis ours):

    "The conventional wisdom to date was that President Rouhani would be able to secure a second term with the implicit support of the Supreme Leader despite the rising criticism of the nuclear deal from the conservative quarters and growing public disenchantment with the more modest economic dividend from the deal due to residual sanctions. A key question now is whether Khamenei decides to tip the scales in favor of a more hardline candidate in light of Iran's strong support for Assad, most notably the weapons and manpower provided by the Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force to the Syrian strongman. The nuclear deal and the sanctions relief that enabled the return of Iranian oil exports would certainly be imperiled if Rouhani were defeated by a candidate with more hawkish/anti-American credentials."

    Croft added that if the strike on Syria proves to be a one-off event and there are no serious efforts to put Assad out of power, then neither a conflict with Russia or a shift in Iranian politics is likely to transpire, and implications for oil should then remain relatively muted.

    "However, given that President Trump had previously signaled deep disdain for humanitarian interventions and the Middle Eastern military engagements, we are now in uncharted waters and we think that many of our earlier prevailing assumptions about the implications of the conflict in Syria may be upended," she added.

    WTI crude is up by 0.9% at $52.15 per barrel, while Brent crude is up by 0.6% at $55.20 as of 1:42 p.m. ET.

    SEE ALSO: The Russian ruble drops after the US strikes Syria

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    Shayrat Airfield Syria

    Syrian warplanes took off from an air base that was hit by U.S. cruise missiles on Friday, and carried out airstrikes on rebel-held areas in the eastern Homs countryside, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

    The U.S. Navy had fired dozens of missiles at the air base near Homs city in response to a chemical attack this week, which Washington and its allies blamed on the Damascus government.

    The British-based Observatory, a group monitoring the Syrian war using sources on the ground, said eight people had been killed in the U.S. attack.

    The extent of the damage to the Shayrat air base was not entirely clear, but the Syrian warplanes had "done the impossible" to continue using it for sorties, the Observatory told Reuters.

    SEE ALSO: Trump didn't need approval from Congress to strike Syria

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    NOW WATCH: ADMIRAL McRAVEN: Attacking Syria was 'the exact right thing to do'


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    Trump Xi

    WASHINGTON/PALM BEACH (Reuters) - In a secure room at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, President Donald Trump's top military advisers presented him with three options for punishing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a poison gas attack that killed dozens of civilians.

    It was Thursday afternoon, just hours before 59 U.S. cruise missiles would rain down on a Syrian military airfield in response to what Trump had called "a disgrace to humanity."

    Trump was at his Florida estate for his first summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. But that summit took a backseat to the top-secret briefing by U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, an official familiar with the briefing told Reuters.

    McMaster and Mattis presented Trump with three options, which were quickly narrowed to two: bomb multiple airfields or just the Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs, where the military jet carrying the poison gas had taken off, the official said.

    At least 70 people, including 20 children, were killed in the gas attack in northern Syria. Russia, which has military forces in Syria aiding Assad's government, says the deaths were caused by a gas leak from a depot where rebel groups stored chemical weapons, a charge the rebels deny and U.S. intelligence officials say is false.

    After listening to an argument that it was best to minimize both Russian and Arab casualties, the official said, Trump chose the minimum option and ordered the launch of a barrage of cruise missiles against the Shayrat air field.

    Mattis and McMaster argued that choosing that target would draw the clearest line between Assad's use of nerve gas and the retaliatory strike, the official said.

    In addition, the living quarters occupied by Russian advisers, Syrian airmen and some civilian workers were on the periphery of the airfield, which meant it could be destroyed without risking hundreds of casualties -- especially if the attack occurred outside the base's normal working hours.

    Another official privy to the discussions said the administration has contingency plans for possible additional strikes as early as Friday night, depending on how Assad responds to the first attack.

    "Whether this is over is up to President Assad," said this official. "We have additional options ready to go."

    trump missile strike

    'Decapitation strike'

    Confronting his first foreign policy crisis, Trump relied largely on seasoned military officers -- Mattis, a former Marine general, and McMaster, a U.S. Army lieutenant general -- rather than the political operatives who had dominated his policy decisions in the first weeks of his presidency, said three officials involved in the deliberations.

    After news of the gas attack first surfaced on Tuesday, Trump immediately requested a list of options to punish Assad, according to two senior officials who took part in those meetings. The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations and intelligence matters.

    Senior administration officials said they met with Trump as early as Tuesday evening and presented options including sanctions, diplomatic pressure and plans for a variety of military strikes on Syria, all of them drawn up well before he took office.

    The most aggressive option on the shelf, one of the officials said, called for a "decapitation" strike on Assad's presidential palace, which sits alone on a hill west of downtown Damascus.

    “He had a lot of questions and said he wanted to think about it but he also had some points he wanted to make. He wanted the options refined,” one official said.

    On Wednesday morning, intelligence officials and Trump's military advisers said they were certain which Syrian air base was used to launch the chemical attack and that they had tracked the Sukhoi-22 jet that carried it out.

    Trump told them to focus on the military plans.

    “It was a matter of dusting those off and adapting them for the current target set and timing,” said another official.

    'You'll see'

    On Wednesday afternoon, Trump appeared in the White House Rose Garden and said the "unspeakable" attack against "even beautiful little babies" had changed his attitude toward Assad.

    Asked then whether he was formulating a new policy on Syria, Trump replied: "You'll see."

    At about 3:45 p.m on Thursday afternoon, General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff called an unscheduled meeting of the service chiefs at the Pentagon to finalize the plan for the military strikes.

    Shortly after 4 p.m., Trump signed off on the missile attacks, according to the White House.

    Two U.S. warships – the USS Ross and the USS Porter – fired 59 cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at the targeted air base. They began landing at around 8:40 p.m. ET (00:40 GMT), just as the two presidents were finishing their meals.

     

    (Reporting by John Walcott, Steve Holland and Phil Stewart, editing by Ross Colvin and Kieran Murray)

    SEE ALSO: Photo shows the moment Trump's team huddled to decide on Syria strikes

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    trump nuclear weapons illustration 3x4

    When Harry S. Truman became president in April 1945, military advisors briefed him on the coming advent of the atomic bomb.

    In July, shortly after the first successful nuclear test blast, Truman wrote in his personal diary that Japanese "soldiers and sailors" would be the future targets, "not women and children."

    This may be why he initially hailed the August bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki— targets chosen by and attacked on authority of the US military — as great successes.

    "Nobody ever goes to Truman and says, 'should we do this?' They go to him and they say, 'we are doing this,'"Alex Wellerstein, an author and nuclear history expert, said in a new episode of Radiolab released Friday, titled "Nukes".

    But Truman quickly learned they were cities packed with women and children, then asked his generals to halt a third atomic strike in the works.

    "He has immediately written back to them, and says, 'Just stop, knock it off. You are not going to drop another bomb without expressed permission of the president of the United Sates,'" Wellerstein said.

    The Radiolab episode explores the question of who or what — if anyone or anything — can stop a US president today from launching a nuclear weapon.

    "The system is set up so that only the president has the authority to order a nuclear war. Nobody has the right to countermand that decision,"William J. Perry, the 19th Secretary of State who served under former President Bill Clinton, from 1994 to 1997, told Radiolab.

    "He might choose to call the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State, or the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to get his advisors' counsel," Perry added. "But even if he does that, he may or may not accept that counsel."

    Permission to nuke not required

    nuclear football

    The single-handed authority of the US president to use his "nuclear football" has been public knowledge for decades.

    President Donald Trump has spoken about expanding the US nuclear arsenal and, in regard to Russia's weapons program developments, has said "let it be an arms race." He's also inherited a $1 trillion program to modernize US nukes. And on April 6, Trump ordered a retaliatory strike against Bashar Assad's regime in Syria — a close ally with Russia, which is a nuclear superpower.

    A global nuclear exchange could annihilate hundreds of millions of lives and sour Earth's atmosphere, water, and ground for generations.

    Robert Krulwich, one of Radiolab's hosts, asked Perry further about the checks and balances of the president' first-strike capability. Their conversation was revealing:

    Krulwich: "If you as Secretary of Defense say to the president — he says, 'let's go,' and you say, 'let's not,' can you…"
    Perry: "First of all, if he calls me, and then if I say, 'Mr. President, that would be a very serious mistake, don't do that,' he might or might not accept my advice."
    Krulwich: "Are you necessary to launch?"
    Perry: "No."
    Krulwich: "Suppose everybody in the room thought it was a bad idea. Would he still be able to do it?"
    Perry: "Yes. He has the call directly to the Strategic Air Command to do the launching, and they will respond to his orders. They don't call the Secretary of Defense or the Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] and say, 'should I do this?' They do it."

    You can listen to Radiolab's full 56-minute episode below:


    The audio highlights protest legislation introduced by Rep. Ted W. Lieu and Sen. Edward J. Markey (both Democrats) to curb the president's nuclear-strike powers. The bills, drafted before Trump became president, "would prohibit the President from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress," according to a January 2017 press release.

    But the episode mainly focuses on the story of Maj. Harold L. Hering.

    Hering aged out of flying helicopters during the Vietnam War and decided to take a job as a missilier: one of many pairs of people in bunkers across the US that can launch intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with nuclear warheads.

    During his missilier training, Hering asked who or what is checking or balancing the president, who may be mentally or morally unfit to make the call — and the rest of the tale is fascinating history.

    SEE ALSO: Never-before-seen videos show nuclear weapons being secretly detonated in the Nevada desert

    DON'T MISS: If a nuclear bomb is dropped on your city, here's where you should run and hide

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    NOW WATCH: Scientists are saying we're closer to 'Doomsday' — and they blame Trump


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    U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk

    Russia warned on Friday that U.S. cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have "extremely serious" consequences, as President Donald Trump's first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington.

    The warships USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles that hit the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations of Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack this week.

    It was Trump's biggest foreign policy decision since taking office in January and the kind of direct intervention in Syria's six-year-old civil war his predecessor Barack Obama avoided.

    The strikes were in reaction to what Washington says was a poison gas attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 70 people in rebel-held territory.

    They catapulted Washington into confrontation with Russia, which has advisers on the ground aiding its close ally Assad.

    "We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious,” Russia's deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged that the U.S. strikes were one step away from clashing with Russia's military.

    U.S. officials informed Russian forces ahead of the missile strikes and avoided hitting Russian personnel.

    Satellite imagery suggests the base houses Russian special forces and helicopters, part of the Kremlin's effort to help Assad fight Islamic State and other militant groups.

    Trump has frequently urged improved relations with Russia, strained under Obama over Syria, Ukraine and other issues, but he said action had to be taken against Assad.

    "Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically," Trump said as he announced the attack on Thursday night from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    "Prepared to do more"

    Nikki Haley

    U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday the Trump administration was ready to take further steps if needed.

    "We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary," she told the U.N. Security Council. "The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used. It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons."

    Iran, which supports Assad and has been criticized by Trump, condemned the strike, with President Hassan Rouhani saying it would bring "only destruction and danger to the region and the globe."

    U.S. allies from Asia, Europe and the Middle East expressed support, if sometimes cautiously.

    U.S. officials called the intervention a "one-off" intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks and not an expansion of the U.S. role in the Syrian war.

    The action is likely to be interpreted as a signal to Russia, and countries such as North Korea, China and Iran where Trump has faced foreign policy tests early in his presidency, of his willingness to use force.

    The United States is now likely to more aggressively pursue intelligence about Syria's suspected chemical weapons program. The Pentagon has also signaled interest in determining any Russian complicity.

    Syria strike map

    "At a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity," a senior U.S. military official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    Russia joined the war on Assad's behalf in 2015, turning the momentum in his favor. Although Moscow supports opposing sides in the war between Assad and rebels, the United States and Russia say they share a single main enemy, Islamic State.

    Senior U.S. military officials said the attack on the air base destroyed up to 20 Syrian aircraft and damaged fuel sites and a surface-to-air missile system.

    Assad's office said Syria would strike its enemies harder.

    Damascus and Moscow denied Syrian forces were behind the gas attack but Western countries dismissed their explanation that chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike.

    The Syrian army said the U.S. attack killed six people and called it "blatant aggression" that made the United States a partner of "terrorist groups" including Islamic State. There was no independent confirmation of civilian casualties.

    U.S. lawmakers from both parties on Friday backed Trump's action but demanded he spell out a broader strategy for dealing with the conflict and consult with Congress on any further action.

    The U.N. Security Council had been negotiating a resolution, proposed by the United States, France and Britain on Tuesday, to condemn the gas attack and push the Syrian government to cooperate with international investigators.

    Russia said the text was unacceptable and diplomats said it was unlikely to be put to a vote.

    Tillerson to Moscow

    Rex Tillerson

    Russia expects U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to explain Washington's stance when he visits Moscow next week, Interfax news agency cited a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman as saying.

    Washington has long backed rebels fighting Assad in a multi-sided civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people and driven half of Syrians from their homes since 2011.

    The United States has conducted air strikes against Islamic State, which controls territory in eastern and northern Syria, and a small number of U.S. troops are helping rebel militias.

    Asked whether the strikes set back any efforts to work with Russia to defeat Islamic State, sometimes known as ISIS, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said:

    "There can be a shared commitment to defeat ISIS and also agree that you can’t gas your own people.”

    Tuesday's attack was the first time since 2013 that Syria was accused of using sarin, a banned nerve agent it was meant to have given up under a Russian-brokered, U.N.-enforced deal that persuaded Obama to call off air strikes four years ago.

    Video depicted limp bodies and children choking while rescuers tried to wash off the poison gas. Russian state television blamed rebels and did not show footage of victims.

    The U.S. strikes cheered Assad's enemies, after months when Western powers appeared to grow increasingly resigned to his staying in power. But opposition figures said an isolated assault was far from the decisive intervention they seek.

    Neither the Trump administration nor its predecessor has laid out a policy aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

    "The big question for all those who are engaged in military action in Syria is what is their plan to stop the killing and bring a durable peace that can deliver a modicum of hope to the people of Syria?" David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee humanitarian agency, told Reuters Television.

    SEE ALSO: Russia just suspended key military agreements with the US — raising the risk of war

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    U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) is underway in the Mediterranean Sea on January 5, 2016. Picture taken on January 5, 2016.

    Less than 24 hours after two US Navy destroyers pulled up to Syria's Mediterranean coast and let fly a blistering salvo of 59 cruise missiles, Syrian warplanes took off from the damaged air base targeted by the strike, according to the Syrian Human Rights Observatory.

    The US strike, retaliation for a chemical attack in northeastern Syria that killed at least 80 people earlier this week, targeted "aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars" at Shayrat air base, according to a Pentagon statement.

    But Syria and its Russian backers have many air bases and lots of military infrastructure in the country.

    The US intentionally launched a limited strike, which was too small and focused to realistically prevent Syrian forces from flying military aircraft in their country.

    "The US took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict," said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. "Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield."

    Images of the aftermath of the strike released by the Pentagon show that the air base's runways — which the US suspects Syrian forces used to launch the aircraft that carried out the deadly chemical attack — were unharmed by the cruise missiles, while aircraft hangars bore the brunt of the damage.

    Sharyat air base air strike

    Despite being warned about the strike and suffering no casualties, Russia responded by suspending military communications and agreements with the US, increasing the risk that an accidental clash of US and Russian forces, who operate close to each other in Syria, could escalate into a larger conflict.

    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the move put the US and Russia "one step away" from clashing.

    After the strike, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Syrian rebel groups called for more US action against Syrian government forces.

    According to Reuters, Nikki Haley, the US's ambassador to the UN, told an emergency UN Security Council meeting on Friday that the US was "prepared to do more" against the Assad regime, "but we hope that will not be necessary."

    "The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used," she said. "It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons."

    SEE ALSO: Russia just suspended key military agreements with the US — raising the risk of war

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    Hillary Clinton

    Former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton reacted Friday to the US strike on Syria, saying the US needs a long-term plan to stop future attacks on civilians by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

    Clinton advocated for stronger action on Syria's government while she was a presidential candidate, while then-Republican nominee Donald Trump warned against it.

    On Thursday, President Trump ordered a strike on Shayrat airfield and nearby Syrian military infrastructure in response to a chemical attack that killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of Syria on Tuesday. US intelligence showed that the attack was likely carried out by Assad's forces.

    "Look, Syria's been a wicked problem for a very long time and the images of innocent people, of parents and especially children suffering in the aftermath of that most recent deadly gas attack were more appalling than I certainly can put into words," Clinton said at an event in Texas.

    "It is essential that the world does more to deter Assad from committing future murderous atrocities," she added. "But the action taken last night needs to be followed by a broader strategy to end Syria's civil war and to eliminate ISIS strongholds on both sides of the border, so I hope this administration will move forward in a way that is both strategic and consistent with our values."

    Clinton also criticized Trump's reluctance to admit Syrian refugees to the US.

    "I also hope that they will recognize that we cannot in one breath speak of protecting Syrian babies and in the next close America's doors to them," she said.

    Trump has called for barring Syrian refugees from entering the US and has said the US needs better vetting systems to screen refugees for ties to terrorism.

    SEE ALSO: Trump may have just signaled that the 'free ride for mass murder in Syria' is over

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    Donald Trump Xi Jinping

    China’s President Xi Jinping and his delegation have left US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, concluding a 24-hour visit that defied expectations among some analysts that a meeting so soon into Trump’s tenure risked damaging relations between the world’s two largest countries.

    While details on what the two sides discussed are thin, Trump would seem to have avoided the antagonistic stance he maintained towards China during and immediately after his presidential campaign. Moreover, comments by Xi suggest that a US military strike against Syria, ordered by Trump shortly before the two presidents met, didn’t sour the friendly tone of the summit.

    "President Trump made excellent preparations for our country’s representatives and gave us a warm reception," Xi said before departing Mar-a-Lago, according to Chinese media.

    "We recently have had in-depth and lengthy communications to this end and arrived at many common understandings, the most important being deepening our friendship and building a kind of trust in keeping with the Sino-US working relationship and friendship."

    Trump informed Xi of his country’s missile strikes against Syria’s military as his dinner with the Chinese leader at Mar-a-Lago concluded, more than four hours after Trump gave the strike order, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters covering the two leaders’ summit in Florida.

    Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile in Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria on April 7, 2017.

    Trump issued the strike order at 4.00 pm (EDT) Thursday (4 am HKT on Friday, April 7), after two days of consultations with US Defence Secretary James Mattis and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who are with Trump in Florida, as well as his Joint Chiefs of Staff and other members of his national security team, Spicer said.

    The US Navy fired more than 50 missiles from destroyers patrolling the eastern Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for a chemical attack Tuesday against civilians in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikoun.

    The timing of events, as explained by Spicer, suggest that Trump informed some foreign leaders and congressional leaders before he told Xi. Spicer declined to specify which foreign leaders and members of Congress were informed first.

    US officials have accused President Bashar Assad’s forces of carrying out the chemical attack, which killed more than 70 people, including women and children, in Syria.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's top China expert isn't a China expert

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    Admiral William McRaven, who's the author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life... And Maybe The World, explains why the Trump administration's decision to attack a base controlled by the Syrian government was the right decision. Following is a transcript of the video. 

    I think in the case of our reaction to Syria this time it was the exact right thing to do. It was appropriate. It was, as we say, proportional, recognizing that the heinous act conducted by the Syrians in dropping the sarin — that is, I'm not sure I would say it's always proportional. That was a terrible act, but our response was again, appropriate and proportional and the right thing to do. 

    My expectation now is we will have a government-to-government discussion with the Russians to say, "Look, you are running out of options in terms of support to Assad, you need to move Assad on because we, the Americans, are still prepared to take the next couple of steps." And, again, I would hope those discussions are happening. 

    It's a long way, if ever, before we would put boots on the ground in a Syrian civil war context. That's not to say, we obviously have boots on the ground now fighting ISIS. This is a different set of circumstances when you start talking about going after or going against the Syrian government. My opinion is Assad has to go, you bet. 

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    john mccain cnn

    Sen. John McCain had supportive words for President Donald Trump on Friday after the US launched missile strikes against Syrian government targets in response to a chemical weapons attack inside the country days earlier.

    But the Arizona senator and chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee warned that it would do little for the war-torn region.

    "Don't expect one strike to one airfield one time to knock out a country's air force," McCain said in a CNN interview Friday.

    "We've been bombing ISIS for years," he said, referring to US coalition air strikes throughout Syria and Iraq.

    Indeed, the dozens of cruise missiles launched from two US Navy ships reportedly did little to hamper Syria's air operations, as Syrian forces took off from the targeted airfield hours later.

    When asked whether the US should send ground troops to Syria, McCain said Assad "will not be overthrown by American troops." He said only a trained, well-equipped free Syrian army would prevail.

    "The only reason why Bashar Assad is in power today is because of Russia and Iran — certainly not because of Syrians," McCain said.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has been a staunch ally to Assad, and Russia became more involved on his behalf in 2015, tipping the scales in favor of Assad's government. The civil war roiling Syria has been ongoing for six years.

    CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer appeared to strike a nerve with a question about Sen. Rand Paul's statement on the US missile strikes. Paul criticized Trump's move to strike, saying "the United States was not attacked," and reminding the commander-in-chief of his obligation to consult with Congress about military actions, adding that previous US interventions in the region "have done nothing to make us safer."

    McCain dismissed Paul, a former presidential candidate and frequent voice of opposition, out of hand.

    "He doesn’t have any real influence in the United States Senate," McCain said.

    Watch a portion of McCain's interview below:

    SEE ALSO: Syrian forces defiantly take off from airfield hit by onslaught of US cruise missiles

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    NOW WATCH: ADMIRAL McRAVEN: Attacking Syria was 'the exact right thing to do'


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    nikki haleyUN/MOSCOW/BEIRUT— Russia warned on Friday that US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base could have "extremely serious" consequences, as President Donald Trump's first major foray into a foreign conflict opened up a rift between Moscow and Washington.

    The warships USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of Tomahawk missiles that hit the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations of Shayrat air base, which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack this week.

    It was Trump's biggest foreign policy decision since taking office in January and the kind of direct intervention in Syria's six-year-old civil war his predecessor Barack Obama avoided.

    The strikes were in reaction to what Washington says was a poison gas attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 70 people in rebel-held territory.

    The US action catapulted Washington into confrontation with Russia, which has military advisers on the ground aiding its close ally Assad.

    "We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the US The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious," Russia's deputy UN envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday.

    Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev charged that the US strikes were one step away from clashing with Russia's military.

    US officials informed Russian forces ahead of the missile strikes, and avoided hitting Russian personnel.

    Satellite imagery suggests the base houses Russian special forces and helicopters, part of the Kremlin's effort to help Assad fight Islamic State and other militant groups.

    Trump has frequently urged improved relations with Russia, strained under Obama over Syria, Ukraine and other issues, but he said action had to be taken against Assad.

    "Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically," Trump said as he announced the attack on Thursday night from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

    Nikki Haley

    Further steps?

    US ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on Friday the Trump administration was ready to take further steps if needed.

    "We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary," she told the UN Security Council. "The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used. It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons."

    US allies from Asia, Europe and the Middle East expressed support, if sometimes cautiously.

    US officials said the intervention was a "one-off" intended to deter future chemical weapons attacks, and not an expansion of the US role in the Syrian war.

    The action is likely to be interpreted as a signal to Russia, as well as 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.

    Senior US military officials said the missiles destroyed up to 20 Syrian aircraft and damaged fuel sites and a surface-to-air missile system.

    Assad's office said Syria would strike its enemies harder.

    Damascus and Moscow denied Syrian forces were behind the gas attack but Western countries dismissed their explanation that chemicals leaked from a rebel weapons depot after an air strike.

    The Syrian army said the US attack killed six people and called it "blatant aggression" which made the United States a partner of "terrorist groups" including Islamic State. There was no independent confirmation of civilian casualties.

    US lawmakers from both parties on Friday backed Trump's action but demanded he spell out a broader strategy for dealing with the conflict and consult with Congress on any further action.     

    U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk

    The UN Security Council had been negotiating a resolution, proposed by the United States, France and Britain on Tuesday, to condemn the gas attack and push the Syrian government to cooperate with international investigators.

    Russia said the text was unacceptable and after the council failed to bridge the gap in closed-door negotiations on Thursday diplomats said it was unlikely to be put to a vote.

    Russia expects US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to explain Washington's stance in light of the missile strikes

    when he visits Moscow in the coming week, Interfax news agency cited a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman as saying.

    Washington has long backed rebels fighting Assad in a multi-sided civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people and driven half of Syrians from their homes since 2011.

    The United States has conducted air strikes against Islamic State, which controls territory in eastern and northern Syria, and a small number of US troops are helping militias fighting its militants.

    Asked whether the strikes set back any efforts to work with Russia to defeat Islamic State, sometimes known as ISIS, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said:

    "There can be a shared commitment to defeat ISIS and also agree that you can’t gas your own people."

    Russia's Defence Ministry notified the Pentagon it would close down on Friday communications used to avoid accidental clashes in Syria, Interfax new agency said.

    Russia joined the war on Assad's behalf in 2015, turning the momentum of the conflict in his favor. Although they support opposing sides in the war between Assad and rebels, Washington and Moscow say they share a single main enemy, Islamic State.

    Tuesday's attack was the first time since 2013 that Syria was accused of using sarin, a banned nerve agent it was meant to have given up under a Russian-brokered, UN-enforced deal that persuaded Obama to call off air strikes four years ago.

    Video depicted limp bodies and children choking while rescuers tried to wash off the poison gas. Russian state television blamed rebels and did not show footage of victims.

    The US strikes cheered Assad's enemies, after months when Western powers appeared to grow increasingly resigned to his staying in power. But opposition figures said an isolated assault was far from the decisive intervention they seek.

    Neither the Trump administration nor its predecessor has laid out a policy aimed at ending the Syrian conflict.

    "The big question for all those who are engaged in military action in Syria is what is their plan to stop the killing and bring a durable peace that can deliver a modicum of hope to the people of Syria?" David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee humanitarian agency, told Reuters Television.

    (Additional reporting by Phil Stewart, Idrees Ali, Roberta Rampton and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Steve Holland in Florida, Roselle Chen in New York and Denis Pinchuk in Moscow; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by James Dalgleish)

    SEE ALSO: TRUMP: 'Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack'

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    While several countries have admonished the US' missile strike against Syria's airfield on Thursday, there has also been an overwhelming response in support of President Donald Trump's answer against the Syrian government's use of nerve agents that killed more than 80 people earlier this week.

    So far, countries like the UK, Germany, France, and Turkey, have expressed their support for the strikes, while others, such as Russia and Iran, have called the attacks "far-fetched" and "dangerous."

    Here are the nations that have supported, opposed, or remained neutral to Trump's strike on Syria's airfield, according to a The New York Times report:

    Syria bombing reaction map

    SEE ALSO: US launches more than 50 cruise missiles at Assad regime airfield over Syrian chemical attack

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    NOW WATCH: ADMIRAL McRAVEN: Attacking Syria was 'the exact right thing to do'


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    syria airstrike

    US officials say they suspect Russia may have played a role in the use of chemical weapons that killed at least 80 people in northeastern Syria earlier this week.

    Russia may have been operating an unmanned drone and military aircraft in the region, according to US military officials cited by BuzzFeed News on Friday.

    Two officials alleged that someone had turned the Russian unmanned drone's camera off just before a Syrian hospital was struck, suggesting the Kremlin was turning a blind-eye to the attack. The officials did not disclose how they were able to determine the camera stopped recording.  

    "This is patterned behavior,"Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst for the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said to BuzzFeed. "The Russians have consistently conducted precise airstrikes targeting civilian infrastructure and hospital in particular, for example in Aleppo."

    The alleged sarin nerve agent attack was reported to have occurred at 6:50 a.m. local time on Tuesday after ordnance hit the road. As the agent began to spread, the nearest hospital began treating victims. However, as that was happening, officials say a Russian-made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) began recording the scene of what they say was "clearly" a hospital.

    Five hours after the initial attack, the UAV turned off its camera, and shortly afterwards, a Russian-made aircraft targeted the hospital.

    "We don't have positive accountability yet, but the fact that somebody would strike the hospital, potentially to hide the evidence of a chemical attack, about five hours after ... is a question that we're very interested in," said one official.

    Though the aircraft was Russian, officials say it was unclear whether Russia was wholly responsible, due to the fact that the Syrian Air Force had purchased aircraft from Russia in the past.  

    Russia's Ministry of Defense referenced the chemical attack, saying that rather than dropping chemical weapons, the attack had hit "workshops, which produced chemical warfare munitions," according to BuzzFeed.

    A senior military official cited by BuzzFeed said they "have no knowledge" of Russia's involvement or prior knowledge of the attack, and said they were in the process of "[investigating] any information that could lead in that direction."

    SEE ALSO: Syrian forces defiantly take off from airfield hit by onslaught of US cruise missiles

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    FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump looks up while attending a meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 22, 2017.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

    A history lesson may be helpful for those who are younger. Google “Hama.” It is a town (actually was a small city). The existing Syrian president’s father killed 20,000 of his own citizens there in 1982. What makes anyone think the present regime is any different? We must remember that the Assad regime in Syria is multigenerational just like the Kim clan in North Korea. Both are ruthless.

    The Syrian government has misrepresented the destruction of its chemical weapons and been caught. The US has now declared a clear policy. Poison gas used to suffocate innocents is not permitted. Period!

    Will the US see its policy through to completion?

    We shall see.

    Meanwhile, there is a classic tendency in the Middle East for oil prices to firm up in advance of a shooting war. This is a nuance but is historically confirmed. I personally saw it happen in the 1960s and again in the 1970s and since. Middle Eastern insiders actually trade the oil market anonymously and through masked trading companies for their personal gain at the expense of lives in their country’s military. And we know enough agents had early warning time to make the trade.

    The Middle East is always a dangerous place. It has been that way for 2500 years. It is that way now. My personal experience entails over 20 visits to the region.

    Markets.

    We took our cash reserve up as a risk management tool.  Why? One cannot know the extent of a shooting war or a military action until it happens, and then one cannot know the outcome until it becomes clear. One can act on early signs or discernible trends.

    What is clear now is this change in US policy.

    Under President Trump, the policy is more intense than just economic sanctions. Lines are drawn; and if they are crossed, America responds. The use of poison gas crosses those lines.

    There is a time when policy needs to be clear and direct. Poison gassing of children is one of those times. It means that the regime (Assad’s) that sanctioned it must change.

    That this incident has occurred just as the leaders of the two largest economic forces in the world are meeting in Mar-a-Lago is an incredible coincidence of timing. But it is also a reality check on the world situation, which we believe is at a high-risk point. Yesterday we wrote about North Korea. Today it is Syria.
     
    More will be revealed as we observe this history unfold in real time.  For this asset manager, some cash reserve seems correct. 

    SEE ALSO: The Russian ruble drops after the US strikes Syria

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    British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 31, 2017.  REUTERS/Virginia Mayo/Pool

    LONDON – Boris Johnson, Britain's foreign minister, said he had canceled a visit to Moscow due for April 10 following the poison gas attack in Syria.

    "Developments in Syria have changed the situation fundamentally," Johnson said in a statement, according to a Reuters report.

    "My priority is now to continue contact with the US and others in the run-up to the G7 meeting on 10-11 April – to build coordinated international support for a ceasefire on the ground and an intensified political process," Johnson said.

    The chemical attack on Monday killed at least 80 people in the northwestern part of Syria and led to the US launching more than 50 Tomahawk missiles from warships stationed in the Mediterranean at a Syrian airfield.

    The governor of Homs, a city roughly 160 kilometers north of the capital Damascus, said at least five people were killed and seven were wounded in the US strikes, Reuters reported.

    Russia responded by warning that the military action could have serious consequences. "We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the US The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious,” Russia's deputy UN envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday.

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    donald trump

    On Thursday, an American missile strike destroyed the air base from which Syrian government forces launched a chemical weapons attack that killed 80 civilians.

    “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” said President Trump, speaking from his vacation resort at Mar-a-Lago.

    Just a few days earlier, the Trump administration had taken the view that the U.S. must reach some kind of agreement with the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. “You pick and choose your battles. … Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out,” U.N Ambassador Nikki Haley said last week. Now, it seems, the White House is committed to a new course.

    That this decision signals an abrupt, almost impulsive change hasn’t stopped pundits from either praising Trump or crediting him for an allegedly newfound seriousness.

    “Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” said Fareed Zakaria on CNN. “This was a big moment for him.” Matt Lewis, a conservative “Never Trump” columnist for the Daily Beast, tweeted that “This seemed like a very different Donald Trump. More serious—clearly moved emotionally.”

    Zakaria and Lewis are representative of the mood that has gripped pundits in the wake of these strikes: a desire to believe that Donald Trump is more serious and presidential than he appears. That he is a normal president, imbued with the qualities shared by his predecessors: knowledge, political savvy, dignity.

    A man carries the body of a dead child, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Ammar Abdullah

    Perhaps, goes the thinking, the vast responsibility of the presidency has brought Trump’s best self to the fore. He now understands the weight of the Oval Office and is trying to shoulder it the best he can. And the strikes in Syria represent Trump finally grappling with the awesome power of his office.

    We don’t yet know the details of the deliberation behind the airstrikes, but we know enough about Trump to say one thing, at least. There is no All-New All-Different Donald Trump.

    He hasn’t suddenly sobered up. And even if you agree with his decision to attack Syrian government assets, there’s still no evidence that his temperament has changed, or that he’s gained any wisdom or insight.

    Indeed, his first two months as president are demonstration that the Trump who now sits in the White House is the same Trump who blasted Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” attacked a Gold Star family, and bragged about sexual assault.

    trumpHe’s still as ignorant of American government—and as contemptuous of truth and knowledge—as he was when he took the oath of office.

    The evidence for this, beyond just his behavior and rhetoric, are two recent interviews, one with Time magazine and the other with the New York Times.

    In former, conducted in March, reporter Michael Scherer presses the president on several of his claims, including the charge that President Obama had illegally wiretapped him and his associates. Scherer asks Trump if, given testimony from his FBI and National Security Agency directors, he has second thoughts about the accusation.

    He even says that Trump’s tweets (he made the charge on Twitter, as is his custom) haven’t “panned out.” Trump does not back down or de-escalate. “I have articles saying it happened,” said the president, though no actual news organization had found any such thing.

    When Scherer pressed Trump on a different, unsubstantiated claim, that 3 million people voted illegally in the 2016 election, the president took the same tack. “Well, I think I will be proved right about that too,” he said, before defending another false claim—that New Jersey Muslims celebrated the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Reading the interview, it is clear that Trump doesn’t believe in truth the way we commonly understand it. For most people, truth — or at least, truth based in facts — is verifiable.

    Yes, it’s tied to our experiences and derives meaning from our interpretation, but it exists outside of us. For the president, by contrast, what is true holds no clear relationship to what can be verified — what can be seen and tested and confirmed.

    FILE PHOTO: U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea which U.S. Defense Department said was a part of cruise missile strike against Syria  on April 7, 2017.  Ford Williams/Courtesy U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

    Trump defends obviously untrue claims (like the charge that Rafael Cruz, father of Ted, was involved in the JFK assassination) by citing other defenders of those claims; he’s not interested in proof but in whether he can find someone else who agrees with him.

    Better yet, he finds a whole stadium of them. “The country believes me,” said Trump about his wiretapping claims. “I went to Kentucky two nights ago, we had 25,000 people in a massive basketball arena.” Being president hasn’t changed this frame of mind or made him reconsider its utility.

    The same goes for the importance of basic knowledge. Throughout the campaign, Trump derided the notion of expertise. But as president, his agenda has been stymied by his lack of information. It is difficult to negotiate or make deals when you don’t know the basics of public policy.

    This ignorance is on display in his other interview, with the New York Times.

    When asked simple questions about his political priorities — the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, for example — he goes off on rants and tangents about perceived political enemies. “I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story.

    "I think it’s a massive, massive story,” said Trump, in response to a question about Gorsuch. He suggests Rice committed a crime — that she was responsible for the aforementioned surveillance — and dangles the possibility that President Obama was ultimately behind this alleged espionage.

    An incredible claim, with almost no basis in fact.

    trump infrastructureWhen asked about his infrastructure plan, a marquee element of his campaign platform, Trump is nearly incoherent: unable to explain its content or structure, unable to say anything beyond platitudes and sound bites.

    “Well, we’re working,” said Trump in response to reporter Maggie Haberman’s question about his timeline for an infrastructure bill, “because you know we have a very solid administration. We have some very, very good people.”

    When Glenn Thrush asks Trump about the attacks on Syrian civilians and Russia’s role in the country, the president struggles to give a substantive answer, opting instead to blame his predecessor:

    "Well, I think it’s a very sad day for Russia because they’re aligned, and in this case, all information points to Syria that they did this. Why they did this, who knows? That’s a level—first of all, they weren’t supposed to have this. Obama said, “It’s all cleared away.” Well, that’s another thing he didn’t do. This was a big moment, a big moment in the Middle East was when Obama drew the red line in the sand, and it was immediately violated, and did nothing. That was a big moment in the Middle East. I know you’re not going to report it, but—that was a big, bad moment in the Middle East."

    There are moments of lucidity in the interview — areas where Trump is engaged and can answer coherently, albeit in language that challenges grammar and linear structure. When the president talks about infrastructure, for example, it’s clear that he cares about the issue, even if he can’t quite tell you what he plans to do or what has been done.

    But that’s a low bar. The broad takeaway is that President Trump is profoundly ignorant of the government and the country he’s in charge of and that he’s unable to discuss even basic questions without help from an array of assistants (who make an appearance in this interview).

    Donald Trump may be the least knowledgeable president we’ve ever had, a deadly combination for someone who also holds the idea of truth itself in cold contempt.

    That, unfortunately, is where we are. With a president who knows nothing and doesn’t seem to want to know anything. Who lies with abandon and defends untruths on the basis of nothing. We’ve never seen a president like Trump, which means it is tempting to believe that it’s not bad as it looks. That, at some point, he will rise to the challenge of the office.

    He hasn’t. He won’t. Don’t let the president’s ability to perform seriousness distract from the reality of the situation. Donald Trump is still unfit and still unstable.

    And as we await the fallout from his missile strikes, we should keep those facts in mind.

    SEE ALSO: Syrian forces defiantly take off from airfield hit by onslaught of US cruise missiles

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    NOW WATCH: 'No child of God should ever suffer such horror': Watch Trump’s full statement on the Syria missile strikes


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    kim jong un

    SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea said on Saturday U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian airfield on Friday were "an unforgivable act of aggression" that showed its decision to develop nuclear weapons was "the right choice a million times over."

    The response by the North's foreign ministry, carried by the official KCNA news agency, was the first since U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched dozens of missiles at a Syrian air base which the Pentagon says was involved in a chemical weapons attack earlier in the week.

    Diplomatically isolated North Korea considers Syria a key ally.

    (Reporting by Jack Kim and Ju-min Park; editing by Alexander Sith)

    SEE ALSO: Photo shows the moment Trump's team huddled to decide on Syria strikes

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