Author Topic: Syria Superthread [merged]  (Read 512910 times)

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1675 on: December 20, 2016, 12:27:00 »
Look this way, look this way - shiny thing!!!!!!!! ...
Quote
Among other things, Al-Ja'afari explained the reason why certain UNSC members were pushing so hard to pass this resolution which provides for the access of UN monitoring group to the largest Syrian city.

According to him, Syrian government possess information about foreign military intelligence officers who are still inside the remaining terror-held pocket in the eastern part of Aleppo. And the main purpose of the resolution, as Syrian authorities believe, is to allow those foreign agents and advisers a safe passage out of the besieged area, along with the terrorists they were training ...
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

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Offline Lightguns

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1676 on: December 20, 2016, 13:12:51 »
An American in Russian hands in Syria.  That is an interesting possibility........
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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1677 on: December 21, 2016, 07:17:57 »
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

The words I share here are my own, not those of anyone else or anybody I may be affiliated with.

Tony Prudori
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“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

The words I share here are my own, not those of anyone else or anybody I may be affiliated with.

Tony Prudori
MILNEWS.ca - Twitter

Offline Colin P

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1679 on: December 23, 2016, 16:48:07 »
Syria and Russia are not the real concern in the region. The real questions are what does Iran and Hezbollah expect in return for their help and what will that do to the region? Also what becomes of the remaining Sunni's in Iraq and Syria? What will be the next stage in the Global Sunni-Shite Civil War? 

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1680 on: December 24, 2016, 11:11:21 »
Syria and Russia are not the real concern in the region. The real questions are what does Iran and Hezbollah expect in return for their help and what will that do to the region? Also what becomes of the remaining Sunni's in Iraq and Syria? What will be the next stage in the Global Sunni-Shite Civil War?


Hopefully it will get bigger and bloodier, and yes, I understand that it will spill over into Europe, North America and Australia, etc, too, but a few outrages here and there is a small price to pay for an all out, tooth and claw, Islamic version of the 30 Years War ... but maybe a little more ugly.  :nod:
It is ill that men should kill one another in seditions, tumults and wars; but it is worse to bring nations to such misery, weakness and baseness
as to have neither strength nor courage to contend for anything; to have nothing left worth defending and to give the name of peace to desolation.
Algernon Sidney in Discourses Concerning Government, (1698)
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Offline Lightguns

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1681 on: January 10, 2017, 06:52:59 »

Hopefully it will get bigger and bloodier, and yes, I understand that it will spill over into Europe, North America and Australia, etc, too, but a few outrages here and there is a small price to pay for an all out, tooth and claw, Islamic version of the 30 Years War ... but maybe a little more ugly.  :nod:

I got in trouble every time I said it (especially when I still had a commission) but the best thing we can do for human kind is to fence off the middle east, nothing in (ammo, food, NGOs) and nothing out (oil, refugees) until they run out of ammo and the will to kill.  May take 30 years, then feed the survivors.
Done, 34 years, 43 days complete, got's me damn pension!

Offline Thucydides

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1682 on: March 08, 2017, 21:10:41 »
Russia demonstrates to Turkey who really has the whip hand. Somehow I doubt the Russians will be getting long term satisfaction from supporting the Persians over the Turks, though.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/thinkers/putin-sends-a-clear-message-to-turkey-on-syria-1.1989345

Quote
Putin sends a clear message to Turkey on Syria

Russia is openly working with the Kurds to obstruct Erdogan’s buffer-zone, reminding him that the Kremlin, rather than Ankarra, is calling the shots in war-torn country
By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News
Published: 17:51 March 6, 2017
Gulf News
 
Six months ago, an endgame for the Syria war was on the table, tentatively agreed upon by the presidents of Russia and Turkey during their summer meeting in St Petersburg. Had it lasted, the deal would have been truly groundbreaking but it collapsed earlier this year, transforming the Syrian battlefield into a giant chessboard — and mailbox — used and abused by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin.

The Russian president wanted his Syrian allies to march on the strategic city of Aleppo in the Syrian north, ending rebel presence in the country’s last opposition stronghold. Erdogan promised to help him achieve that, saying that he would look the other way only if the Russians helped him crush Kurdish statehood ambitions on the Syrian-Turkish border, preventing linkage of the Kurdish cantons of Afrin and Kobani, in addition to helping create a buffer zone to relocate 2.3 million Syrian refugees who have been living in Turkish towns and cities since 2011. The zone would also clean the border area from militants of the Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

Putin nodded affirmatively, silently approving the Turkish invasion of the border city of Jarablus last August, part one of Erdogan’s Operation Desert Shield. Additionally, the Russia-approved buffer zone was supposed to include the city of Azaz, 88km away from Jarablus, also on the Syrian-Turkish border. Erdogan upheld his part of the agreement, doing absolutely nothing when Syrian troops overran Aleppo last December. He clearly needed Putin, and that need was mutual.

Something went wrong, however, shortly after Donald Trump entered the Oval Office. Erdogan seemingly saw promise in the new US president, distancing himself from his earlier commitments to Putin while marching on territory not agreed upon by the two men last summer, supposedly earmarked for Russia’s sphere of influence, not Turkey’s.

In November 2016, his proxies advanced on the city of Al Bab deeper into the Syrian heartland, 30km south of the Turkish border, much to the displeasure of Moscow. Three months later, a spokesman for the Turkish government said that the army would halt once seizing Al Bab, claiming that it had no further ambitions in Syria. Erdogan stunned the Russians by immediately dismissing the statement, snapping: “There might be a miscommunication. There is no such thing as stopping when Al Bab is secured. After that, there is Manbij and Al Raqqa.”

The first, Manbij, is located west of the Euphrates and was liberated from Daesh by a US-backed militia known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) last August, while Al Raqqa, located on the north-eastern bank of the Euphrates River, has been the de facto “capital” of Daesh since 2014. Continued Kurdish presence in Manbij was a direct threat to Turkey’s national security, given that a major pillar of the SDF are the Kurdish Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian branch of the loathed PKK.

Last month, speaking from Bahrain, Erdogan said that the final goal of Turkish incursion into northern Syria was a 5,000-square-km safe zone, vowing that it would include Al Raqqa, which is deep inside Syria, more than 100km east of Aleppo. Last month his army took Al Bab and began preparing to march on Manbij and Al Raqqa.

The bear makes its move

Russia’s response came first came through the advancement of Syrian troops towards Al Bab from the south, taking Tadeh, about a mile from the city, awaiting orders to push forward. Then, Russian warplanes bombed a Turkish position in Al Bab, killing four soldiers, refusing to apologise or write it off as an “accident”. Instead, they blamed it on the Turkish Army, saying that they had provided Moscow with faulty coordinates of their positions in Syria, arguing that they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

The Turks struck back by proxy, attacking a Russian position in the deserts of the ancient city of Palmyra, killing four Russian soldiers, and letting their allies in the countryside of Aleppo fire rockets at the city, debunking all claims by Russian and Syrian media that the city had been “freed completely” from rebel presence.

They were sending a message to Putin that they remain strongly entrenched in the city’s suburbs and can attack at will, if Moscow continues to hamper the expansion of the Turkish buffer zone.

Taking the confrontation to new heights, the Russians hammered out an agreement with the Manbij Military Council, a branch of the SDF, whereby the Kurdish militia would hand over control of several villages west of Manbij to the Syrian Army. They called it the “transferred defence of the frontline,” to halt “Turkey’s invasion plan”, referring to the Turks as “gangs” in their official communiqué, and to the Syrian troops as “state forces,” driving Erdogan extremely mad.

Erdogan had spoken on the telephone with President Donald Trump, asking for US cover to prevent Kurdish advances on Al Raqqa or continued US presence in Manbij. Not only did Trump refuse to commit, but provided the SDF, at their request, with anti-tank weapons, mine detectors and other military equipment.

Making things worse for the Turkish leader was a meeting held at the CIA-led Military Operation Room in southern Turkey in late February, where US military officers told Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups that they had two weeks to unite or lose any form of American support. Among the groups included in the US freeze were the Sham Legion, composed of former members of the Muslim Brotherhood, active in the Aleppo countryside with 4,000 fighters, and Jaysh Al Nasr, a Turkish-backed militia of 5,000 fighters active in Hama.

The fact that the US was withdrawing support from these groups while continuing to bankroll and arm the SDF was bad news for the Turks. So was the fact that the SDF was now cooperating fully with Moscow and Damascus. Last August, their spokesman Talal Selo had said: “It is forbidden to negotiate with the Russians. Our alliance is with the United States and it is impossible to communicate with any other party.”

Putin was making a point — loud and clear — that this was now history, and that the Russians are now working openly with the Kurds to obstruct Erdogan’s buffer-zone, reminding him that it was the Kremlin, rather than Ankara, that was calling the shots in Syria, and that no scheme would ever pass in this war-torn country if not approved by Moscow.

Sami Moubayed is a Syrian historian and former Carnegie scholar. He is a Research Fellow at the Syrian Studies Centre at St Andrews University.
Dagny, this is not a battle over material goods. It's a moral crisis, the greatest the world has ever faced and the last. Our age is the climax of centuries of evil. We must put an end to it, once and for all, or perish - we, the men of the mind. It was our own guilt. We produced the wealth of the world - but we let our enemies write its moral code.

Offline daftandbarmy

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1683 on: March 09, 2017, 09:15:34 »
"The most important qualification of a soldier is fortitude under fatigue and privation. Courage is only second; hardship, poverty and want are the best school for a soldier." Napoleon

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1684 on: April 06, 2017, 12:42:48 »
Speaking of the U.S. military in Syria, both Breitbart & CNN say #POTUS45 is considering military action in SYR.  Some options, according to CNN, anyway ...
-- Strategic airstrikes
-- Cruise missiles
-- No-fly zone
-- Safe zones
-- Ground Forces
Let's see how this unfolds ...
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1685 on: April 06, 2017, 21:40:49 »
US conducts a Tomahawk airstrike at Syrian airbase.   
http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/world/syria-autopsy-results-hague-1.4058014

Offline YZT580

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1686 on: April 06, 2017, 21:42:33 »
That should wake up the North Koreans, the Iranians, and a whole bunch of others that are used to Obama's dithering.

Offline Sandyson

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1687 on: April 06, 2017, 21:56:05 »
The coincidence of the message to China 'take care of Korea or we will', the no notice strike on Syria, and the dinner with China himself is remarkable.

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1688 on: April 06, 2017, 21:58:13 »
That should wake up the North Koreans, the Iranians, and a whole bunch of others that are used to Obama's dithering.

Hell, this woke ME up.

Your move, Russia.
“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
― Dwight D. Eisenhower


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Offline Dimsum

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1689 on: April 06, 2017, 22:13:49 »
Hell, this woke ME up.

Your move, Russia.

Um, this will change OP IMPACT plans...
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline MilEME09

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1690 on: April 06, 2017, 23:49:47 »
Um, this will change OP IMPACT plans...
Its being reported Russian troops wetr at the airbase hit in the strikes, well we either get WW3 or something else now

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1691 on: April 07, 2017, 00:27:09 »
60 missiles is hard to ignore.   That's not going to buff out easily.

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1692 on: April 07, 2017, 03:28:57 »
Its being reported Russian troops wetr at the airbase hit in the strikes, well we either get WW3 or something else now

Sent from my LG-D852 using Tapatalk

BBC, among others, has reported that the Russians were told beforehand.
Philip II of Macedon to Spartans (346 BC):  "You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city."

Reply:  "If."

Offline MilEME09

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1693 on: April 07, 2017, 03:37:39 »
BBC, among others, has reported that the Russians were told beforehand.

indeed however a Tomahawk is a 1,000 lbs of explosive power, early reports indicate 59 launched, that's 59,000 lbs of ordnance coming down on an airbase. Tomahawks are accurate yes, but unless Russian personal stayed completely in shelter we don't know if any were hurt. Not to mention how much warning did the Russians maybe give Syrian forces? did those missiles really hit anything? or just empty buildings.
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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1694 on: April 07, 2017, 03:54:03 »
Initial reports indicate Shayart air base was destroyed by the 59 or so Tomahawks that were launched. We shall see if Syria ups the ante.
No Russian aircraft or personnel were targeted. Interestingly there were no reports of Russian AD missiles being launched to shoot down US tomahawks.
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 04:03:12 by tomahawk6 »

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1695 on: April 07, 2017, 05:52:53 »
Um, this will change OP IMPACT plans...
... or maybe even OP UNIFIER, depending on what Russia does ...
:pop:
BBC, among others, has reported that the Russians were told beforehand.
Which may be why Russian-state media is (at least initially) reporting this:  "Syrian Personnel, Equipment Evacuated From Airfield Ahead of US Strike"
« Last Edit: April 07, 2017, 05:59:09 by milnews.ca »
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

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Offline tomahawk6

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1696 on: April 07, 2017, 08:13:51 »
The base infrastructure is destroyed along with Syrian jets that may or may not have been in working order. The idea I think was to issue a warning of sorts to Assad and Russia that Trump doesnt abide the use of WMD on civilians. North Korea might also be taking notes.

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1697 on: April 07, 2017, 10:11:37 »
Yes it is a very calculated move, enough to show he means business, but not so much to force the others to feel they must retaliate. I would also mention that Somalian Pirates should be paying attention, a large Marine assault to recover hostage and punish them is quite likely if they go after a US crewed ship.   

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1698 on: April 07, 2017, 10:18:19 »
And from the various info-machines ....
Quote
Statement from Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis on U.S. strike in Syria

At the direction of the president, U.S. forces conducted a cruise missile strike against a Syrian Air Force airfield today at about 8:40 p.m. EDT (4:40 a.m., April 7, in Syria).  The strike targeted Shayrat Airfield in Homs governorate, and was in response to the Syrian government's chemical weapons attack April 4 in Khan Sheikhoun, which killed or injured hundreds of innocent Syrian people, including women and children.
 
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.  A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.   As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict.  Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.
 
The strike was a proportional response to Assad's heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces.  The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4.  The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
 
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line.  U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
 
We are assessing the results of the strike.  Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government's ability to deliver chemical weapons.  The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.

Quote
Comment from the Press Service of the President of Russia

The President of Russia regards the US airstrikes on Syria as an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext.  The Syrian Army has no chemical weapons. The fact of the destruction of all Syrian chemical weapons’ stockpiles has been recorded and verified by the OPCW, a specialised UN body. Vladimir Putin believes that complete disregard for factual information about the use by terrorists of chemical weapons drastically aggravates the situation.

This move by Washington [the US airstrike on an air base in Syria] has dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations, which are already in a poor state. Most importantly, this move will not bring us closer to the ultimate goal of combatting international terrorism but will instead create a major obstacle to the establishment of an international counterterrorist coalition and to effective struggle against this global evil, something that US President Donald Trump declared as one of his main goals during his election campaign.

Vladimir Putin regards the US strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.

On Friday, the United States launched Tomahawk cruise missiles at an air base in Homs Province in western Syria.
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

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Re: Syria Superthread [merged]
« Reply #1699 on: April 07, 2017, 10:19:03 »
... with a bit more detail from last night's US Q&A:
Quote
Press Briefing by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Advisor General H.R. McMaster, 4/6/2017

10:18 P.M. EDT

MR. SPICER:  Tonight, Secretary Tillerson and NSA Director, Lieutenant General McMaster, will both give comments regarding the President's order tonight, and then afterwards we'll take a few questions and then let you get to some sleep.

With that, Secretary Tillerson.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Good evening, all.  I think what we want to try to do is give you a little bit of background on how we got to the statements by the President and the actions that were taken tonight. 

As you're well aware, Bashar al-Assad has carried out chemical attacks this past week on civilians, including women and children, and carried out attacks earlier -- last month, March 25th and 30th in Homs Province, as well.  We have a very high level of confidence that the attacks were carried out by aircraft under the direction of Bashar al-Assad's regime.  And we also have very high confidence that the attacks involved the use of sarin nerve gas.  At least the past three attacks were fairly high -- we have high confidence on that.

I think it's also clear that previous agreements that had been entered into pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2118, as well as Annex A agreements that the Syrian government themselves accepted back in 2013, whereby they would surrender their chemical weapons under the supervision of the Russian government.  Now, the U.S. and the Russian government entered into agreements whereby Russia would locate these weapons, they would secure the weapons, they would destroy the weapons, and that they would act as the guarantor that these weapons would no longer be present in Syria.

Clearly, Russia has failed in its responsibility to deliver on that commitment from 2013.  So either Russia has been complicit, or Russia has been simply incompetent in its ability to deliver on its end of that agreement.

I think the other thing that's important to recognize -- that as Assad has continued to use chemical weapons in these attacks with no response -- no response from the international community -- that he, in effect, is normalizing the use of chemical weapons, which then may be adopted by others.  So it's important that some action be taken on behalf of the international community to make clear that these chemical weapons continue to be a violation of international norms.

I think it's also important to recognize, as I think everyone does, the chaotic circumstances that exist on the ground in Syria, with the presence of a battle underway to defeat ISIS, the presence of al Qaeda elements inside of Syria, and a civil war that is underway.  So, clearly, one of the existential threats we see on the ground in Syria is if there are weapons of this nature available in Syria, the ability to secure those weapons and not have them fall into the hands of those who would bring those weapons to our shores to harm American citizens.

So there are a number of elements that, in our view, called for this action and which we feel was appropriate.  We feel the strike itself was proportional because it was targeted at the facility that delivered this most recent chemical weapons attack.  And in carrying this out, we coordinated very carefully with our international partners in terms of communicating with them around the world.  And I will tell you that the response from our allies in Europe, as well as the region in the Middle East, has been overwhelmingly supportive of the action we've taken.

So I'll leave it there.  And let me turn it to NSA Director McMaster.

GENERAL McMASTER:  I really have very little to add except to say that it was important during the President's deliberations and its deliberations with his leadership that we weighed, of course, the risk associated with any military action, and we weighed that against the risk of inaction, which Secretary Tillerson has already really summarized, which is the risk of this continued egregious, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians with chemical weapons. 

And so, really, nothing else to add to the Secretary's summary.  And we're happy to take any questions that you have.

Q    Could you go through just the timeline of how the President's thinking changed?  And when did you present him with options and so forth?

GENERAL McMASTER:  Okay.  So the President was immediately notified upon news of the chemical attack, and he was very interested in understanding better the circumstances of the attack and who was responsible.  Our intelligence community, in cooperation with our friends and partners and allies around the world, collaborated to determine with a very high degree of confidence precisely where the location originated, and then, of course, the sort of chemicals that were used in the attack.

That confidence level has just continued to grow in the hours and days since the attack, associated with additional evidence that's available, especially -- so sad -- sadly, from the victims that are being treated and the confirmation of the type of agent that was used, which was a nerve agent.

So that was -- the initial interactions with the President were about the attack and responding to his questions about the nature of the attack, the scope of the attack, and who was responsible in particular.

And then we convened a meeting of the National Security Council principals -- a small group; it wasn’t the full -- it was almost the full National Security Council -- to deliberate on options.  There were three options; you can imagine which those were.  There were three options that we discussed with the President, and the President asked us to focus on two options in particular, to mature those options.  And then he had a series of questions for us that we endeavored to answer.

We were able to answer those questions and come back to him in a decision -- briefing today, again, with virtually all of the principals on the National Security Council here in Florida and then by video-telephone conference back in Washington.  And after a meeting of considerable length and a far-reaching discussion, the President decided to act.  And that's the general sequence of events.  So rather two large and formal meetings, but really a whole series of discussions since the time of the attack.

Secretary, do you have anything to add to that?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  No, I think just as I said, as I think H.R. has said, this was a very deliberative process.  There was a thorough examination of a wide range of options.  And I think the President made the correct choice and made the correct decision, first to be decisive in acting -- acting against this heinous act on the part of Bashar al-Assad -- but acting in a way that was clearly directed at the source of this particular attack, to send that strong message.

Other things were considered.  Those were rejected for any number of reasons.  And in my view, the President made the exact, correct decision.

Q    Mr. Secretary --

Q    Mr. Secretary, can you talk a little bit about your discussions in the last hour?  Secretary, did you speak to the President --

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  I'll let Sean referee here.

MR. SPICER:  (Laughter.)  I'm good at it.  Hallie. 

Q    Did you or did the President speak with President Putin prior to the attack?  Can you talk about the discussions that you had with Moscow and what the expectation is from them?

And then, General McMaster, I have a question for you as well, please.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  There were no discussions or prior contacts, nor have there been any since the attack, with Moscow.

Q    And can you tell us about your expectations for what you think you will hear from President Putin or Foreign Minister Lavrov?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  I'll let them speak for themselves.

Q    General, McMaster, I'd like to ask you -- the President -- you talked a little bit in response to Steve’s question about the President’s evolution of his thinking.  Just a couple of years ago his encouragement was to stay out of Syria.  You talked about the images that sort of moved him into this direction -- as he put it tonight, "beautiful babies cruelly murdered."  Has his thinking then changed on allowing Syrian refugees into the United States, to your knowledge?

GENERAL McMASTER:  No, that wasn’t discussed as any part of the deliberations.

Q    And on the target, anything else on specifically what you believe was destroyed in the strike?

GENERAL McMASTER:  I'll defer to the Pentagon on that.  But there were a number of targets that were associated with the ability of that airfield to operate and to continue mass-murder attacks against the Syrian civilians.  And the one thing that I will tell you, though, there was an effort to minimize risk to third-country nationals at that airport -- I think you read Russians from that -- and we took great pains to try to avoid that.  Of course, in any kind of military operation, there are no guarantees.  And then there were also measures put in place to avoid hitting what we believe is a storage of sarin gas there so that that would not be ignited and cause a hazard to civilians or anyone else.

MR. SPICER:  Margaret.

Q    Can I ask H.R. -- sorry -- both the Secretary and H.R. McMaster -- what is the overriding message here?  Is it that -- this is not clearly a declaration of war, but is it that for President Trump and this administration the credible threat of military force is back on the table?  Was this articulated or explained in any way to President Xi prior to the President’s remarks?  And do you see this as in any way sending a message more broadly on your policy towards North Korea that the President is willing to take decisive action?  If both of you would weigh in.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Well, I think as you just stated, this clearly indicates the President is willing to take decisive action when called for.  And I think in this particular case, the use of prohibited chemical weapons, which violates a number of international norms and violates existing agreements, called for this type of a response, which is a kinetic military response. 

I would not in any way attempt to extrapolate that to a change in our policy or our posture relative to our military activities in Syria today.  There’s been no change in that status.  But I think it does demonstrate that President Trump is willing to act when governments and actors cross the line, and cross the line on violating commitments they have made and cross the line in the most heinous of ways.  I think it is clear that President Trump has made that statement to the world tonight.

Q    Mr. Secretary, can I --

MR. SPICER:  Hold on, hold on --

GENERAL McMASTER:  I really have no further comment on that question.  I think the Secretary covered it comprehensively.

Sean.

Q    Did you tell China in advance?

MR. SPICER:  Hold on one second.

Q    Mr. Secretary, if I could ask you to clarify Russia again -- you said no contacts were made with Russia before the strikes today.

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  No contacts were made with Moscow, with President Putin.  There are military de-confliction agreements in place with the Russian military, and our military did operate under and in accordance with those de-confliction agreements in coordinating this particular attack.

Q    On the ground in Syria?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  In Syria.

Q    Can you explain, Mr. Secretary, that process?  How was Russia notified? 

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Let me let H.R. --

GENERAL McMASTER:  There are normal channels open for de-confliction.  And I'll just defer that to the Pentagon just for accuracy.  But the Pentagon, I know, is going to be talking to the press here soon, and I think it would be better if they give you a more precise answer if you're looking for details.

Q    And, Mr. Secretary, if I could, obviously the diplomatic considerations here are of a magnitude that didn’t exist a number of years ago.  When you went into this, unlike President Obama, who was dealing simply with Bashar al-Assad, you're dealing with Russia, you're dealing with the Kurds, you're dealing with Turkey.  Can you give us a little bit of the diplomatic calculation in undertaking this attack?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Well, my expectation is that all of those parties, with the exception of Bashar al-Assad and perhaps Russia, I think are going to applaud this particular action or effort. 

Overall, the situation in Syria is one where our approach today and our policy today is, first, to defeat ISIS.  By defeating ISIS we remove one of the disruptive elements in Syria that exists today.  That begins to clarify for us opposition forces and regime forces.  In working with the coalition -- as you know, there is a large coalition of international players and allies who are involved in the future resolution in Syria. 

So it's to defeat ISIS; it's to begin to stabilize areas of Syria, stabilize areas in the south of Syria, stabilize areas around Raqqa through ceasefire agreements between the Syrian regime forces and opposition forces.  Stabilize those areas; begin to restore some normalcy to them.  Restore them to local governance -- and there are local leaders who are ready to return, some who have left as refugees -- they’re ready to return to govern these areas.  Use local forces that will be part of the liberation effort to develop the local security forces -- law enforcement, police force.  And then use other forces to create outer perimeters of security so that areas like Raqqa, areas in the south can begin to provide a secure environment so refugees can begin to go home and begin the rebuilding process.

In the midst of that, through the Geneva Process, we will start a political process to resolve Syria’s future in terms of its governance structure, and that ultimately, in our view, will lead to a resolution of Bashar al-Assad’s departure. 

MR. SPICER:  Jonathan.

Q    Mr. Secretary and General McMaster, does this strike significantly change Assad’s military capability to carry out an attack like this?  Or was it really about sending a message that this kind of attack is not acceptable?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Well, I’ll answer the last part of that.  This was clearly a very decisive action taken on the part of President Trump, who I think you heard yesterday said this particular heinous attack changed his view of how horrible these types of use of these weapons are.  That clearly changed President Trump’s view that something has to be done in response.

I’ll let H.R. McMaster respond to the second question of the military -- whether it’s changed our military posture.

GENERAL McMASTER:  Obviously, the regime will maintain the certain capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons we think beyond this particular airfield.  But it was aimed at this particular airfield for a reason, because we could trace this murderous attack back to that facility.  And this was not a small strike.  It was not a small strike.  And I think what it does communicate is a big shift, right, a big shift in Assad’s calculus -- it should be, anyway -- because this is the first time that the United States has taken direct military action against that regime or the regime of his father.

So I think what is critical is the President’s decision in response to this mass murder attack, but also in the context of all the previous attacks that have occurred -- I think over 50 -- I think it’s over 50 chemical attacks previously, post-2013, when the U.N. resolution went into effect.  And so I think that it’s both.  It was aimed at the capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons, but it was not of a scope or a scale that it would go after all such related facilities.

Q    Were military personnel with any other nations, any of our allies, take part in this?  Or was this 100 percent a U.S. operation?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  This was entirely a U.S. operation.

MR. SPICER:  Jen.

Q    Can you talk a little bit about whether there might have been just an emotional reaction to this from President Trump?  Assad cannot gas Americans, so do you think some emotional response to the sight and images of what happened in Syria played into this?  And secondly, can you talk about the reaction from President Xi?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  No, I don’t think it was -- I do not view it as an emotional reaction at all.  I think as President Trump evaluated this first attack, these attacks that occurred on his watch, and reflected upon the prior responses, or lack of responses, he came to the conclusion that we could not, yet again, turn away and turn an eye -- turn a blind eye to what’s happened.

The use of these weapons, as I indicated earlier, one of the concerns we have is the more we fail to respond to use of these weapons, the more we begin to normalize their use.  And when we begin to normalize their use, we are opening up wider-spread use by others who would use such weapons.

And I don’t think we should in any way diminish the risk of the situation in Syria where there is a lot of chaos on the ground.  There are elements on the ground in Syria, elements that are plotting to reach our shore, and these type of weapons falling into their hands and being brought to our shore is a direct threat on the American people.
 
Q    Sorry, I wanted to ask you to clarify something, Secretary Tillerson, first, and then I also have a military question.  You were saying that there was no coordination with Moscow for this, but then you said that you followed the rules of de-confliction.  So that kind of suggests that you did talk to Russia in some capacity.  Can you just clarify that?

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  Well, I think Director McMaster answered it.  And again, I would direct you to the Pentagon to give you the precise procedures that are followed.  But these are battlefield agreements, because we’re operating in Syria, the Russians are operating in Syria.  As we have begun the march to defeat ISIS, many of our forces are becoming more approximate to one another, and so we have a de-confliction agreement in place with the Russian military.

And so there are command contacts that exist 24/7 for any type of operation that could bring us into conflict.  That’s the level of contact that we’re talking about.

Q    So is it more accurate to say that you didn’t seek approval from Moscow or anything like that for them to kind of give you the green light, but you followed protocol in terms of the military --

SECRETARY TILLERSON:  We sought no approval from Moscow or at any other level within the Russian infrastructure.  This was strictly following the rules that we have put in place, an agreement with the Russian military to de-conflict.  Because our target in this attack was not Russia, it was not the Russians, it was not their forces, nor any Russian individuals.  Our target was this airfield and the Syrian regime. 

GENERAL McMASTER:  I would just add one thing.  The purpose was not to receive permission, the purpose was to reduce the chances of Russian casualties and to follow the procedures, as you mentioned.  But we wanted to take every possible measure we could to reduce the chance of Russian casualties.

MR. SPICER:  Thank you guys very much.  Appreciate it.  We’re going to have a great night.

END
10:39 P.M. EDT
“Most great military blunders stem from the good intentions of some high-ranking buffoon ...” – George MacDonald Fraser, "The Sheik and the Dustbin"

The words I share here are my own, not those of anyone else or anybody I may be affiliated with.

Tony Prudori
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