Did Trump jump the gun with Twitter threat of strikes on Syria? President meets top military brass and national security advisor as the White House tries to downplay threat to launch missiles

Wednesday, April 11, 2018
By Paul Martin

President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday to ‘get ready’ for strikes on Syria
Tweeted to Moscow: ‘You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it’
Message came after Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon said that U.S. missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and launch sites targeted
Intelligence director Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford were at the White House
‘All hands’ meeting included National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders insisted that despite Trump’s digital saber-rattling, nothing was decided
Statement raised questions over whether Trump had military options at hand when he made the threat
Allies France and UK have still to decide on how to respond to gas attack on Douma at weekend which is being blamed on Bashar al-Assad
Russian military says it will deploy troops to Douma, the rebel-held Damascus suburb where poisoned gas killed dozens on Saturday, to establish ‘security’ for the town
Air traffic control agency Eurocontrol warns about the use of missiles in the air around Syria ‘in the next 72 hours’
World Health Organization says 500 people went to hospitals showing ‘symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals’ after Saturday’s poison gas attack
Kremlin’s UN ambassador said the chemical attack was a ‘staged event’ faked by provocateurs working with a first-responder aid group whose work was chronicled in an Oscar-winning documentary

11 April 2018

Two of Donald Trump’s highest-level strategic advisers were at the White House on Wednesday as he weighed whether, when and how hard to strike at Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime following his deadly chemical weapons attack on anti-government rebels and civilians.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were all at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for what one official described as an ‘all hands’ meeting with the president’s top-shelf national security advisers.

The group also included National Security Advisor John Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence, who White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said chaired the meeting.

The meeting raised questions over whether Trump’s early-morning twitter threat to Russia and Syria that he would use missiles which they could not shoot down was made before he had full military advice.

Trump had used Twitter earlier in the day to says: ‘Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. 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!’

But Sanders seemed to turn down the heat with a vague statement that bordered on murky. A military attack is ‘certainly one option,’ she told reporters during a briefing, ‘but it’s certainly not the only option – or the only thing that the president may or may not do.’

‘All options are on the table,’ said Sanders, ‘and a final decision hasn’t been made.’

The U.S.’s key allies, the UK and France, have also still to decide what, if any, action to take.

In Britain, prime minister Theresa May is holding a cabinet meeting on Thursday to canvas support from ministers for backing any U.S. action. She is said to have ordered British missiles armed with Tomahawk missiles into range of Damascus.

And in France, president Emmanuel Macron said he would decide on a response ‘in the coming days.’ ‘Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime’s chemical capabilities,’ he said, insisting he did ‘not want an escalation.’

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