US President Donald Trump’s decision to move American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem threatens to destabilize the entire region for generations to come

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President Donald Trump’s quite literal bombshell decision to move the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem threatens to destabilize a region already teetering on the brink of chaos.

Such choice may just spark the final fire in the Middle East.

Moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has long since been in Mr. Trump’s wish list. He even made a campaign pledge out of it. Israel supported the idea all along, but previous US presidents had enough common sense to defer such move, recognizing the potential for catastrophic consequences in the region if it came to pass.

Trump’s decision has been received with dismay, widespread condemnation, and fierce criticism worldwide. Palestinian organization Hamas has gone a far as saying that Trump ‘has opened the gates of Hell’ by publically and internationally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Elsewhere, Iran has issued a statement to say that it is likely to spark a fresh uprising.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meanwhile referred to the decision as a ‘historic landmark’.

Historical background

Jerusalem is, and has been for a long time, a divided city.

Jerusalem’s east side -the Old City- had been under Jordanian rule up to 1948. Israel occupied it by force during the Six Day War in 1967, and annexed in 1980, in a move that sparked international outrage. The issue remains that, under the laws of the Geneva Convention, any territory that is occupied by military means does not have international recognition of ownership. Therefore, controversy still rages about which side owns Jerusalem’s east side.

Why Jerusalem is at the center of such division? Both Israelis and Palestinian claim the city as their capital. This has been a source of tension for generations. There are deeply entrenched fracture lines running just beneath an uneasy truce that Mr. Trump’s decision threatens to shatter with a single stroke of the Presidential pen.

Officially endorsing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel will have several, quite severe and far reaching consequences. It will put a swift end to the protracted peace process in the region, for starters, which will likely lead to renewed waves of violence.

Also, it will mean that President Trump has taken it upon himself to determine the fate of such troubled city, ignoring the plight of millions, and unileraterally blasting decades of careful negotiations. Eighty six countries have embassies in Tel Aviv. None in Jerusalem.

Almost 900,000 people live in this contested urban enclave, roughly split in 37% Arab and 61% Israelis. They live in the knowledge that their version of peace rests on a knife’s edge, and Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is likely to cause that dormant blade to cleave the region for good.

 

US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigns over misuse of private jets for business trips

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US Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price has resigned from his post, amidst fierce controversy over his use of private jets to travel on business trips.

Price, a former surgeon with an estimated wealth of $14m, is currently under investigation by watchdog authorities in the US, after choosing to fly on private jets on routes covered by commercial airlines and clocking up a $400,000 bill in chartered aircraft. As comparison, Price’s predecessors in the Obama administration, Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Kathleen Sebelius, always flew commercial.

Mr. Price’s actions, while far from unique among top political figures in the Trump administration, have further eroded public confidence in the changes proposed by Mr. Trump, particularly the ‘drain the swamp’ pledge.

The scandal echoes a similar misdeed here in Ireland back in 2001, by the then Minister for Health Mary Harney. In that instance, Ms. Harney availed of an Air Corps plane to attend the opening of a friend’s off-licence in Co. Leitrim.

Ms. Harney did not resign over the controversy.

 

POTUS v The Rocket Man: A study in Government-sponsored lunacy

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I’m not the man they think I am at home
Oh no no no I’m a rocket man…

Thus goes the song Rocket Man, written by Elton John back in 1972. Itself inspired by Ray Bradbury’s short story ‘The Rocket Man’, John’s ballad talks about the conflicting feelings of an astronaut traveling to Mars, as he ponders whether or not is worth to leave his family behind to fulfill his job.

Yet, this well known song was likely not in Donald Trump’s mind when he branded North Korean’s leader Kim Jong-Un a ‘little rocket man’.

The two men, and I’m using the term ‘men’ very loosely here, are engaged in regular name-calling nowadays, a sort of tit for tat routine pitting two bullies who forgot to grow up locking horns in turf wars around the schoolyard.

POTUS v Rocket Man is now a thing, a melodramatic reality with fathomless viewership prowess. It would almost be funny, were it not for the rather sinister overtones that permeate this international tug of war.

So the world watches as these two sycophant-ridden leaders take to the airwaves to pour scorn on each other. POTUS uses tweet to unload his crude verbal vitriol. Half a world away, Kim uses the more traditional approach of televised speech to retort, and his words resonate with the cheap bubble gum quality of Google-translated foreign speech: ‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.’

POTUS recently used a perhaps overly-generous time allocation at his maiden UN speech to proclaim that the US would ‘totally destroy North Korea’ if the latter ever dares to attack US soil, or any of the country’s allies. During the same speech, POTUS actually referred to the North Korean leader as ‘Rocket Man’. Well now. Take that, UN protocol and statesmanship.

It is hardly news that world leaders do sometimes get a little hot under the collar while speaking inside the UN chamber. Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev starred in the infamous shoe-banging incident at the UN in 1960, for instance. Krushchev started banging his shows hard against his desk, in angry response to comments uttered by the then Filipino leader Lorenzo Sumulong. And in 2006, inflammatory words spoken by President George W. Bush about Fidel Castro’s ailing health prompted the entire Cuban delegation to storm off the chamber, throwing down their ear pieces as they did so.

All those high-profile shenanigans notwithstanding, no US President had ever used any pejorative term when addressing another head of state. The words ‘rocket’ and ‘man’ had certainly never been used in such derogatory fashion at Chez UN. Say it isn’t so, Kim perhaps thought, but nonetheless took POTUS’ speech as a ‘declaration of war’.

And what’s with ‘dotard’ anyway. Is it perhaps a portmanteau or ‘doting retard’? Or maybe a poor translation of an ancient North Korean insult? Not so. Turns out that such obscure term means ‘an old person with declining mental capabilities’. In the slightly unhinged POTUS v Rocket Man theater of horrors, the dotard is king, it seems.

The latest episode in the POTUS v Rocket Man serial sees the man with the weird black bouffant brand POTUS a ‘mentally deranged megalomaniac’.

The world tunes in, Truman Show style, to watch as both world leader caricatures blast each other with rhetorical salvos.

And all the while, the unspeakable gravity of war smears the men’s cartoonish faces.

 

Tensions rise further in the Korean Peninsula, as South Korea conducts live-fire drills simulating an attack on a North Korean missile launch site

North Korea’s latest nuclear test, which the Government-run official news site KCNA deemed ‘a complete success’, has sparked a new wave of retaliatory military moves in the region.

In response to the test, South Korea conducted a live-fire exercise on Monday, simulating a full-scale attack on one of North Korea’s main nuclear test sites.

The drill took place after North Korea reportedly set off a nuclear device on Sunday last, an act carried out in blatant defiance of UN-imposed sanctions.

The event, which was independently verified, involved a “two-stage thermonuclear weapon” with a yield of about 100 kilotons. North Korea claims that the warhead was small enough to be transported inside an Intercontinenal Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The two-stage weapons signifies a major advancement in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

In the immediate aftermath of the test -the first since Donald Trump took office-, South Korea has authorized the deployment of four additional THAAD launchers at a site some 300 kilometers south of Seoul. THAAD batteries are mobile weapon platforms that target incoming missiles in their terminal approach. THAAD rockets have no warhead, relying on sheer kinetic energy instead to destroy an incoming missile before it reaches its intended target. A kinetic impact minimizes the chances of detonating conventional weaponry, and a nuclear warhead will not explode after a kinetic strike.

Also, the US has entered talks with South Korea about deploying ‘strategic assets’ to the region, in the form of aircraft carriers, long-range bombers, and special ops personnel.

It is also suspected that North Korea may be preparing to conduct yet another missile test on Saturday, which marks one of the country’s major holidays. Pyongyang favors displays of military might during marked ocassions.

Meanwhile, the war of words between the US and North Korea, after US President Donald Trump branded the country a ‘rogue nation and a threat.’

Trump v Kim: Warmongering rhetoric escalates between the two leaders, as the US President now retorts that North Korea ‘will regret any action it takes on Guam’

Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have been playing a high stakes poker game for some time, using world peace as a bargaining chip.

A few days ago, the US President said that North Korea would be met with ‘fire and fury like the world has even seen’, if the Pyongyang regime threatened US soil.

In response to such inflammatory comments, North Korea retorted that it is planning to launch an attack on the Pacific island of Guam, which is both a popular tourist destination and home to Andersen Air Base. The 36th Wing is housed there, providing mission support duties to a large number of civilian and military aircraft. Crucially, a significant portion of the US’ long-range capability (six B-1B bomber aircraft) are based at Andersen.

Trump, incensed at such low blow, today said that the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, will ‘truly regret’ any action it takes against Guam.

Against such warmongering background, China stepped up and said that, should military conflict actually break out, the country will remain neutral if North Korea strikes first. However, if the US and/or South Korea are the ones to start the conflict, China will intervene militarily to defend the current socio-political landscape in the region.

Far from shying away from provocative rhetoric, Trump resorted to Twitter to say “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”

The standoff carries dark and ominous undertones not seen since the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, and the escalation of the Cold War after the Able Archer European wargames of 1983.

North Korea is profoundly resentful of the latest raft of sanctions set against the country, over its ongoing testing of missiles, and both it and the US remain locked in a high-risk game of nuclear intentions, after US intelligence sources claimed that North Korea had developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit into a missile that could theoretically reach US soil.

Still, despite the highly charged rhetoric, there has been no discernible change in the state of readiness of US military assets, so the next steps remain unclear.

Anthony Scaramucci booted from the White House after just ten days on the job

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Anthony ‘The Mooch’ Scaramucci is no longer the White House communications director. And having spent less than two weeks on the job, he’s not likely to be missed all that much.

The axe fell on the wealthy former hedge fund impresario earlier today, in a move that shocked many but surprised few. The axeman? The White House’s brand new Chief of Staff, no-nonsense retired Four-Star General John F. Kelly of the USMC.

It had been a relatively quiet two weeks inside the corridors of power at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., by the the current Administration standards at least. The chaos and the uncontrolled dive seemed to have righted themselves, for a while at least. Critical mass appeared to have been averted.

Then, a few short days after launching an expletive-laden tirade against Reince Priebus, The Mooch found himself on the firing line.

Fast-talking Scaramucci entered the White House riding a high horse, wearing aviator glasses with a Top Gun-esque blue tint, and boasting to report directly to his idolized boss, gunning for anyone suspected to have leaked information to the press. He took aim at Reince Priebus, who resigned last Friday ‘to give Scaramucci a clean slate.’

No such luck for Scaramucci, however. The once fawning Mooch was escorted out of the White House today, out of the job he had longed for since the Boss rose to power in the last election.

And Scaramucci is not just out of a job. He is out of a marriage too, as his wife filed for divorce ‘because he had turned into a Trump sycophant.’

Trump accelerates climate apocalypse after announcing that the US will withdraw from Paris Agreement

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The end of days inches yet a bit closer after US President Donald Trump announces that his country will no longer abide by the Paris Agreement on climate.

Trump, who is almost as oblivious to scientific reality as our very own Danny Healy-Rae from the Kingdom, has unilaterally decided that the US will withdraw from the historic deal on climate reached in Paris in 2015.

The agreement was reached after decades of wrangling and toing and froing regarding global warming and climate change. Those countries responsible for producing 55% of the global carbon and gas emissionns ratified it, and the agreement became legally binding a few months later. Only two countries -Syria and Nicaragua- opted out.

The overall aim of the deal is to keep global temperature increases to less than 2C, with particular effort put into maintaining the figure at 1.5C.

The US will now be free from such obligation. It is worth mentioning that energy companies poured tens of millions of dollars into supporting the president during his campaign, lobbying hard to exert influence over future decisions that could potentially affect their own coffers.

It is now clear that such covert moves paid off, as energy giants stand to gain big time financially after today.

Enemy of his own state: The end of the Trump era is nigh

 

Donald Trump

‘I hope you can let this go’

So President Trump allegedly told the now ex-FBI Director James Comey, referring to the bureau’s probe into Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn. ‘I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,’ Trump was quoted as saying in a private meeting with Comey. ‘He (Flynn) is a good guy.’ Comey was cleverly selective with his answer. ‘I agree he is a good guy.’

That one sentence, which essentially amounted to a thinly veiled attempt to shut down an FBI investigation into Flynn’s murky liaisons with Russian personnel, is likely to become Trump’s political epitaph.

The revelation that the 45th President uttered these words came in the form of a memo written by Comey, on foot of the alleged conversation that took place during a meeting back in February, exactly the day after Flynn resigned. Comey was reportedly shocked that the President would ask something that could be interpreted as intimidation, and took down notes after the meeting ended. Comey wanted to ensure that a paper trail existed, as current notes taken by an FBI agent usually hold up in court.

James Comey’s habit of writing down conversations that may later come into question was well known among his associates. In this case, such work practice may very well bring about the end of Donald Trump’s Presidency.

Despite Trump’s attempts to derail the probe into Flynn’s activities, the investigation continued. Indeed, a federal grand jury in Virginia has recently issued subpoenas relating to material involving Mr. Flynn.

Trump shoots himself in the head, politically speaking: The firing of James Comey

Donald Trump pressed the nuclear button and fired Director Comey on May 9th, immediately sending shockwaves across Washington. The official reason given for the man’s dismissal quoted Comey’s work performance, particularly in relation to the controversial decision not to prosecute Hilary Clinton over the use of public email servers during her presidential campaign. According to Clinton, Comey’s intervention costed her the election, and Trump had nothing but admiration and praise for Comey at the time.

But things had changed by May 10th: ‘He wasn’t doing a good job,’ Trump said about Comey on that date, a day after the drama began to unfold.

The official reason notwithstanding, the White House was thrown into disarray over the issue 24 hours later, as conflicting reports about the reason for Comey’s dismissal began to emerge. One spokesperson after another attempted to justify the President’s decision to get rid of Comey, to little avail.

So intense was the fallout that the White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, was seen hiding from the press to avoid questioning. This would later be lampooned by Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Spicer on the SNL show. A newspaper went as far as saying that Spicer ‘hid in the bushes.’ The paper was later forced to issue a retraction to change ‘in‘ for ‘among.’

Yet, all attempts to protect the President would be swiftly dismantled by the President himself, when he revealed during a TV interview that he targeted Comey over the probe into collusion with Russia during the presidential campaign.

Trump said during the interview that ‘this Russia thing‘ was one of the reasons he fired Comey, adding that the whole Russia issue was a ‘made-up story.’ This revelation pretty much destroyed whatever little credibility the White House had managed to hold on to up to this point. To add insult to injury, Trump referred to Comey as “a showboat” and “grandstander.” Both the press and the Trump camp were left aghast at the statement.

Architect of his own demise: Trump reveals classified information to Russia

When it comes to torpedoing his own tenancy as President of the United States, nobody does it better than Trump himself.

Still reeling from the Comey scandal, the latest shot under the White House’s waterline came in the form of highly classified intel openly spoken about in the presence of Russian representatives.

The top secret material, relating to an intelligence operation against ISIS, was discussed in plain English during a meeting between Trump and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Trump was on a roll at the time. The fateful meeting took place less than 24 hours after the termination of FBI Director Comey.

The White House, and the intelligence community as a whole, was left speechless after Trump’s blunder. The President’s basic competence was quickly called into question.

Trump’s fundamental ignorance about history is well documented. The President, a self-confessed TV addict, openly admitted that he believed Frederick Douglass to be still alive and that ‘he is doing an amazing job,’ for example. And he has also made some bizarre comments about the Civil War.

But despite these obvious academic shortcomings, one would think that Trump, as a security-obsessed American and as President, would have enough intellect to mind his mouth when it comes to matters of national security. Not so, apparently. The untold damage caused by the security breach is likely to ‘cost American lives,’ according to security analysts.

Obstruction of Justice and possible impeachment

It is hard to see Trump’s alleged attempts to meddle into the Flynn investigation first, and then into the probe of whether or not Russia had any role to play in the presidential election, as anything other than interfering into the FBI’s and Department of Justice’s dealings with these matters.

Comparisons have been drawn between these issues and the Watergate, the scandal that culminated in Richard Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974, days before an imminent impeachment.

Back then, journalists and law enforcement organizations untangled a complicated trail of illicit activities that led all the way to the White House.

With the scandal out in the open, Nixon and a few other top political associates were accused of obstruction of justice, after it emerged that Nixon planned to use the CIA to stop an impending investigation by the FBI.

Nixon was pushed into a corner, and with the threat of impeachment looming closer, he chose to resign. Though later pardoned for his involvement in the shady affair, the Watergate legacy stayed with Nixon until his death in 1994.

Impeachment proceedings have been initiated against several US presidents, though only two -Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton- have ever been successfully impeached.

There are now sufficient grounds to impeach the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump, in light of his alleged intervention in the FBI’s affairs, and the recent alleged leak of classified information.

The seventh trumpet is about to blow for Mr. Trump.

The Syrian variant: On the brink of war

US Navy Hits IS Targets

Photo credit: US Navy via ABACAPRESS.COM

Strike at Sharyat

The Tomahawk strike launched over Sharyat Airfield in Syria last Friday signified a marked escalation of the US involvement in the war-torn country.

Never before had US assets been directly used in a military confrontation in Syria, though America has long been indirectly involved in the conflict, conducting a proxy war with Russia.

At 8:40 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (4:40 a.m. Zulu Time), April 7, two US Navy Destroyers -USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71)- launched a coordinated surgical strike against Sharyat Airfield.

The target was chosen because it is the suspected jump point for the aircraft that had deployed chemical weapons on the civilian population in the town of Khan Sheikhoun three days prior.

The US naval assets rained a barrage of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles down on the twin-runway airfield, hitting storage depots, air defence sites, and other facilities. A number of aircraft were also destroyed in the attack, and six personnel were reported to have been killed.

The Tomahawk cruise missile has a range of over 600nmi, thus enabling long-reaching strike capability its operator. However, the weapon requires a large amount of fuel to propel it to its target, which significantly reduces the size of its warhead. With a price tag of $1.5m apiece, a single Tomahawk’s destructive power is low in relation to its cost. To compensate for this weakness, operators normally launch a barrage of missiles to maximize the strike’s effectiveness.

Aftermath

Satellite imagery released shortly after the attack revealed heavy damage to key installations at Sharyat.

Crucially however, the actual runways did not sustain heavy damage, and remained operational. Some observers have questioned the effectiveness of the strike.

Russian authorities swiftly moved to criticize the US involvement, stating that the United States had ‘crossed a red line’, and also questioning the legality of the strike.

Both countries have been engaged in a thinly veiled confrontation in the Middle East country ever since the Syrian Civil War began almost six years ago. The Russian government has propped up the Syrian army, providing air assets and other equipment. Together with Syria, the Russian air force has access to a dozen airfields dotted around the country, so the assault on Sharyat has done relatively little to reduce overall combat effectiveness.

Furthermore, a Russian naval asset, the Admiral Grigorovich frigate, has now been stationed in the Mediterranean.

Admiral Grigorovich is a force to be reckoned with. The vessel is equipped with Kalibr-NK anti-ship and coastal missiles, Shtil-1 defensive missile system, a 100mm artillery cannon, anti-aircraft equipment, and torpedoes. It also carries an air wing for close ground combat support in the form of Ka-27 or Ka-31 attack helicopters.

The presence of such mighty asset in the Mediterranean will surely become a cause forconcern to the US Navy and its allies.

Change of heart

The Obama administration pledged to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, deeming in fact a ‘priority’. In the end, such pledge went unfulfilled, and al-Assad remains in control.Before the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, the Trump administration had not particular interest in ousting al-Assad from power. According to the Trump security team, fighting ISIS was their main concern.

But Trump has had a change of heart it seems, as he has now turned his attention to the Syrian conflict. He referred to the events at Khan Sheikhoun as a ‘heinous’ crime, and few would dispute that this is true. 89 civilians -30 children among these- died a horrific, nerve-agent induced death.

Few would also dispute that al-Assad was the man behind the orders to carry out such atrocity. It is not the first time that the Syrian President orders chemical strikes on his own people, after all. Back in 2013, over a thousand people died after being exposed to the deadly nerve agent sarin in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta. In the aftermath of such grievous crime against humanity, the US considered direct military intervention in the region, but the Obama Administration relented after Assad agreed to hand over Syria’s stockpiles of chemical weapons. Nevertheless, chemical attacks have continued regularly since.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration now finds itself in a perilous position. The president may very well intend to oust Bashar al-Assad from power, but doing so would be in direct conflict with previous and current foreign policies for two reasons: One, Russia backs the Syrian Government 100%, and Trump and many of his close supporters are known to have ties with the Russian President Vladimir Putin. It is widely suspected that Russia interfered in the last US election, possibly affecting its outcome in the favor of Donald Trump. Also, a number of businessmen associated with the president have murky financial interests over in Russia. Trump has in fact operated under a cloud of suspicion because of the Russian connections ever since he rose to the top job.

And two, the rebel army conducting operations against Bashar al-Assad is known to include ISIS- associated factions, which poses a great moral quandary to Trump and its advisors.

This situation is reminiscent of a CIA-backed Osama Bin Laden back in Afghanistan, during the Soviet war in the country. Though the claims were never officially substantiated, it is widely accepted that the US fell prey to its own creation, after the CIA trained and armed rebel factions fighting against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Later on, these same factions would turn against the US and would use the weapons provided to wage war against American interest elsewhere.

On the brink of war

The strike on Sharyat Airfield has had a profoundly destabilizing effect on the precarious balance of power in Syria.

Such openly direct intervention of the US is likely to inflame the already strained relations between the US and Russia. China is also a keen supporter of both Russia and Syria, and if war were to break out, the US would find itself in a perilous situation indeed.

The Chinese Army is a very powerful force indeed. Should armed conflict be sparked in Syria, North Korea may decide to initiate military operations and move against South Korea, for instance. China also backs North Korean interests, so it may lend support to Kim Jong Un’s regime. At the same time, the US would be forced to defend its South Korean allies and enter into an armed confrontation against China and North Korea. Concurrently, Russia may forge an alliance with these largely communist countries, forcing the US to wage war in two fronts.

Should this scenario develop as postulated here, other countries may seize the chance and take sides, sparking a global conflict.

Overnight missile strike on Syrian airbase signifies a dramatic escalation of the conflict

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US President Donald Trump took resolute action against Syria last night, on foot of Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on civilian population.

On presidential orders, two US Destroyers, USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71) stationed on the Eastern Mediterranean launched a coordinated surgical strike at 8:40 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (4:40 a.m. Zulu Time) on April 7.

The warships fired a barrage of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) against Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs, believed to be the jump point for the fixed-wing warplanes that deployed the chemical weapons on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, April 4.

The Tomahawk is a long-range cruise missile weapon system that can be equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads. Operated by the United States and the United Kingdom, the Tomahawk can deliver its payload to targets up to 1,350 nmi away.

President Trump later released a pre-recorded statement to the press: “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield where the chemical attack was launched,”

“It is in this vital to the national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligation its obligation under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”

The missiles targeted aircraft, oil storage facilities, air defense sites, and other key
installations at the airfield. It is understood that while Russian authorities were informed ahead of the action, US top brass did not seek Moscow’s permission for the strike.

According to the Pentagon, the destruction of Shayrat Airfield will severely disrupt the Syrian Airforce’s capacity to deliver further chemical strikes from the site, besides reducing its overall combat capabilities. US officials have called the action ‘a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act.’

Escalation

The strike signifies a dramatic escalation of the Syrian conflict, and the first direct military intervention by US assets.

Moscow’s response to the attack has been swift. Russian officials have called it an ‘act of aggression’ by the US. Furthermore, they said that it ‘delivers a significant blow’ to US-Russia relations.

The two nations have been engaged in a proxy war across Syria from some time, each supplying weapons, military equipment and other assets to their chosen ally.

The US’ goal is to prevent Russia from gaining a foothold in the Middle East, while Russia is engaged in active protection of its foreign assets and facilities in the country. Putin’s government has consistently vetoed any UN resolution against Syria, for example.

Last night’s strike signifies a dramatic stepping up of the ongoing conflict, and it requires careful monitoring by the UN and other overseeing bodies, as it might trigger a Russian military response if Moscow decides to defend Syrian’s interests.

In this scenario, a direct military confrontation between the US and its old adversary could lead to a global conflict.