Thu, Apr 12, 2018 - Page 1 News List

As Russia warns against US strike, Trump tweets missiles are coming

AP and the Guardian, WASHINGTON

Defying Russian warnings against US military strikes in Syria, US President Donald Trump yesterday said that missiles “will be coming” in response to Syria’s suspected chemical attack that killed at least 40 people.

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

Trump did not detail what a strike would look like, or whether these would be US missiles. The tweet came as Trump administration officials have consulted with global allies on a possible joint military response to Syria’s alleged poison gas attack.

Trump canceled a foreign trip in order to manage a crisis that is testing his vow to stand up to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The tweet drew a quick response from the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying on Facebook that “smart” missiles would destroy any evidence of a suspected chemical weapons attack.

The term “smart” missile dates to the introduction decades ago of weapons with advanced guidance systems — for example, using GPS — to achieve greater precision in targeting. The term was meant to contrast with “dumb” bombs lacking such technology.

Virtually all US missiles now have advanced guidance systems.

Russian lawmakers earlier warned the US that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime, saying it could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries.

Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted — a stark warning of a potential major confrontation in Syria.

Trump’s tweets also delivered a mixed message, not unusual for the mercurial president.

Shortly after warning that missiles were coming, Trump tweeted that the US “relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War.”

Then, striking a more conciliatory tone, he said: “There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

The Pentagon said it would not comment on potential future military operations.

“I refer you to the White House to characterize the president’s tweet,” a spokesman said in a statement.

Earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron gave the impression that a final decision on a potential retaliatory target would not be made for a few days.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is likely to need the endorsement for military action from members of parliament, who do not return to the House of Commons until Monday.

The latest threatening bellicose tone from the White House, and the pressure from the military not to give Russia time to prepare its air defenses inside Syria, raises questions about whether the US would wait for a British parliamentary endorsement for action.

Trump’s tone, in contrast to the more methodical evidence-led approach of the UK’s Conservative government, might also make it more difficult for May to win a Commons vote.

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