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Trump declares ‘mission accomplished’ after chemical weapons targets hit

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French officials said the country faced a “double complexity” in carrying out operations: There was the more than 4,300-mile distance the French military traveled and then the synchronization required with allies.

There was a “perfect sense of execution,” said French Defense Minister Florence Parly.

And yet McKenzie did not rule out the possibility of future chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime.

“I’m not going to say that they’re going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future, but I suspect that they’ll think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night,” the lieutenant general said.

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At a news conference at the Pentagon after Trump announced the operation Friday night, Defense Secretary James Mattis described the strikes as a “one-time shot” and “a little over double the weapons” used by the Trump administration when it carried out a similar assault in April 2017 that consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.

“Last year, the focus was on the delivery,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Saturday. “This time, the strikes went to the very heart of the enterprise, to the research, to development, to storage. We are very confident that we have significantly crippled Assad’s ability to deploy these weapons.”

She added that while the mission in Syria remains defeating the Islamic State, which has seen its grip weaken in the region in recent months, the U.S. will not allow Assad to attack “innocent Syrian people.” The airstrikes, she insisted, also do not represent a change in U.S. policy.

 Two sites were targeted west of Homs and one site was targeted in Damascus.

Trump earlier this month had reluctantly agreed to keep U.S. troops in Syria for an undetermined period of time to defeat ISIS.

Syria has been locked in a civil war since the Arab Spring of 2011, pitting rebel groups who seek to depose the Assad regime against Russia-backed government forces.

Both Russia and Iran condemned the airstrikes, with Russian military officials claiming Saturday that the Syrian military had shot down more than 70 missiles.

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White stood by Trump’s assessment of “mission accomplished.”

“Last night, operations were very successful, we met our objectives, we hit the sites — the heart of the chem weapons program — so it was ‘mission accomplished,'” White said.

Trump’s tweet Saturday appeared to be referring to the success of the strike, but whether or not the Assad regime will be deterred from using chemical weapons remains to be seen.

The president tweeted again early Sunday morning, responding to criticism of his initial use of the phrase “mission accomplished.”

Assad’s presidential Twitter account Saturday appeared to show him unfazed by the military strikes.

“Good souls will not be humiliated,” it tweeted with a video of him appearing to walk calmly, with briefcase in hand, into his palace in Damascus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday reaffirmed Russia’s view that the purported chemical attack was a fake, criticizing the U.S. and its allies for launching the strike without waiting for inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the international watchdog group, to visit the area.



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Corbyn sides with CHINA as he launches attack on Boris's alliance with US and Australia

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JEREMY CORBYN sparked uproar after siding with China in a row over Britain’s new defence pact with the United States and Australia.

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Angry French ambassador shows true colours by reminding Biden about naval victory over UK

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BREXIT Britain’s newly forged defence deal with Australia and the US infuriated French Ambassador to America, Philippe Etienne, who took a bitter swipe at his transatlantic allies.

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China, France furious at new U.S. security alliance with Britain, Australia

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HONG KONG — America’s new security alliance with Britain and Australia was always likely to be greeted with fury by China, the unspoken target of Washington’s latest effort to reinforce its influence in the region.

And it was. But the pact also incensed France, a longtime ally that felt its Indo-Pacific interests had been torpedoed by the submarine-centered agreement.

At a news briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Zhao added that any regional alliance “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”

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In a briefing before Wednesday evening’s announcement, a Biden administration official stressed that the pact “is not aimed at any one country.”

But the AUKUS deal comes as the U.S. steps up its efforts to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology that the U.S. had only previously shared with Britain. The pact also allows for greater collaboration between the three countries on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence, as well as in other areas.

It will also make Australia the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines, after the U.S., Britain, France, China, India and Russia. Unlike those other countries, Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

“The U.S. has only ever shared this technology with the U.K., so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge,” said Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, in a statement shared with NBC News.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been in a downward spiral, with the U.S. ally emerging as a key bulwark in the West’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence.

China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, has embarked on a trade war in return.

There now appears little prospect for improved ties, which the Australian government will have taken into consideration, according to Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“I think China will probably increase the pressure on us as a result of this, but frankly we need to do this in order to ensure our security,” he said.

But it’s not just China that was irked by the deal.

France also expressed outrage after the agreement brought its own deal to build submarines for Australia, inked in 2016, to an abrupt end.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly voiced their displeasure in a joint statement.

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” they said, “shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A visibly angry Le Drian later described the announcement as “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he added. “This is not done between allies.”

Australia signed a 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion.Naoya Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun via AP file

Parly said Thursday that the government would try to minimize the financial impact of the canceled deal on submarine manufacturer Naval Group, which is mostly state-owned.

Asked whether France would seek compensation from Australia, she did not rule it out.

Being sidelined by the new alliance was a “big disappointment” for French trade, according to Frédéric Charillon, a political science professor at France’s Clermont Auvergne University.

“But, what is probably more worrying now is…the lack of confidence that is now growing between the Biden administration and at least some of the European alliance, including France,” he said.

Washington appears to be fueling “the impression that maybe the new administration (is) not that different from the last,” Charillon added.

In New Zealand opposition leaders questioned why Australia’s neighbor and close ally had been left out of the loop.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her government had not been approached as part of the pact, “nor would I expect us to be.”

But she added that any nuclear-powered submarines Australia acquired would not be allowed in the country’s territorial waters, since its longstanding nuclear-free policy forbids the entry of vessels powered by nuclear energy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that in spite of the hard feelings among both rivals and some allies, this was simply an opportunity his country couldn’t turn down.

The advantages of nuclear submarines were clear, he said: “They’re faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity.”

“Australians would expect me as prime minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe and to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can,” he added. “And that is what I have done.”

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Chantal Da Silva reported from Toronto.

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