Sunday 30 April 2017

'The strikes are more about Trump proving himself than about Syrians'

US President Donald Trump gives a statement about the missile strikes on a Syrian airfield, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
US President Donald Trump gives a statement about the missile strikes on a Syrian airfield, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Mary Fitzgerald

When the first US cruise missiles rained down on a Syrian airbase, it marked an unexpected turn not only for the Syrian conflict but also Donald Trump's months-old presidency.

Just days before, his administration was adamant that challenging Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was not a priority and that Washington would focus solely on eliminating Isil in the country's northern flank. What had changed in between was a chemical attack in Idlib province, which killed more than 80 people. The shocking images that emerged in the aftermath of that attack - showing children either dead or gasping for breath, many of them foaming at the mouth - brought Syria back to the headlines.

"I will tell you that attack on children…had a big impact on me - big impact," Mr Trump said the day after. His ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley held up photographs of the victims in the Security Council chamber in New York and hinted Washington may take unilateral action. Not long after that 59 cruise missiles were being readied from US warships in the Mediterranean.

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