- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Trump administration said missile strikes Friday against Syria underscored Russian President Vladimir Putin’s culpability in allowing the Syrian regime to continue using chemical weapons.

Russia has failed. Putin has had four years to make good on his commitments,” a senior administration official said Saturday. “Russia is the one who is allowing Syria to continue on with this behavior.”

The missile strikes by the U.S., France and U.K. hit three targets where the Syrian government develops, makes and stores chemical weapons, and succeeded in dramatically reducing the capability to carry out further chemical attacks.

The Obama administration reached an agreement with Russia and Syrian in 2013 in which Russia was to oversee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.

In recent months, however, Russia has repeatedly blocked moves on the United Nations Security Council and other international organizations to deter Syria’s use of chemical weapons.

President Trump declared “mission accomplished” in a tweet Saturday, and U.S. officials said the strike had satisfied all the goals of the military operation.

The administration was also prepared for a sustained campaign to prevent Syrian or others from using chemical weapons, which are banned by international treaties.

Syria has stepped up its use of chemical weapons since February, but a devastating attack with a mixture of sarin and chlorine April 7 in the town of Douma provoked the military action by the U.S., France and U.K.

The chemical attack in Douma, the last rebel stronghold outside the Syrian capital, Damascus, killed at least 70 people, including dozens of women and children.

The allied missile strikes Friday, which hit the heart of Syria’s chemical weapons program, further strained already tense relations between Russia and the West.

Mr. Putin called the attack an “act of aggression” and warned that it would worsen the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly called for better relations with Russia, including cooperation in areas of shared interest such as combating ISIS and other terrorist groups. The effort was derailed by Russia’s malevolent actions around the globe.

The president is still looking to improve relations with Russia, including gaining Moscow’s support in deterring Syria’s use of chemical weapons, said another senior administration official.

“For that kind of engagement to be successful, it has to be two sided,” said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity. “Russia must respond with actions as well.”


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