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Main US goals in Syria defeat IS, contain Iran, stop CW use – Sanders

WASHINGTON, President Donald Trump has three big objectives in Syria, to defeat so-called Islamic State (IS), contain Iran and stop the spread and use of mass chemical weapons, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday.

Regarding the defeat of IS, “We are almost there,” Sanders said in an “ABC This Week” interview. “We have made extraordinary gains … and this president has led that effort, and he’s been successful in that front.

“The other things we have to do, we have to contain Iran,” she said. “We have to make sure that the bad acting that they have been a part of doesn’t continue and doesn’t grow.

“And then last we have to stop the spread and the use of mass chemical weapons, and that was one of the things that you saw the President take action on, on Friday,” she said, referring to the US and allied missile attacks in Syria in response to the alleged deadly chemical attack in Douma last weekend.

“These are big things that the President has been focused on, and we’ve had some success so far,” Sanders said. “We’re going to continue building on that.” Asked to explain Trump’s “Mission Accomplished” tweet Saturday, Sanders said the US, United Kingdom and France “100 percent met their objectives, that?’s what the President?’s referring to.

“They went out to destroy critical chemical weapons infrastructure in Syria, and they did exactly that,” she said. “And they also sent a strong message to Syria, to Russia, to Iran that when this president has a red line, he will enforce it.” Critics derided Trump’s use of the “mission accomplished” phrase, as it was a reminder of former President George W. Bush standing on an aircraft carrier bearing that message on a large banner only weeks after the US launched the war in Iraq in 2003.

In a response Sunday, Trump tweeted, “The Syrian raid was so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term ‘Mission Accomplished.’ I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!” Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the work of the US in Syria is not done.

“We know that it’s now up to (Syrian President) Bashar Al-Assad on whether he is going to use chemical weapons again,” she said. “And should he use it again, the President has made it very clear that the United States is locked and loaded and ready to go.” Trump “has made it very clear when it comes to weapons of mass destruction, we have no tolerance for it,” she said. “We are going to watch out for the best interests of the American people.

“And so he made a point, and hopefully Assad gets it. If Assad doesn’t get it, it’s going to hurt,” she added.

“We have to be very conscious of the fact that we can’t allow even the smallest use of chemical weapons,” Haley said.

Not only did the US and its allies go after Syria’s “absolute strongest research facility, we went after their storage units where they hold the products, and we went after their production,” she said. “So we put a heavy blow into their chemical weapons program setting them back years. And I?’m sure it?’s going to take them a lot to recover from it.” Asked why the US was drawing a distinction between Assad’s use of chemical weapons but not doing anything to stop the thousands being killed in Syria with conventional weapons, Haley said, “We can’t control what a country does to its people. We can condemn it, we can acknowledge it. We can try to do everything at the United Nations.

“We do wait and use military force as a last response to that,” she added. “But we’ve always acted in every way related to every incident in some form just to let them know how much the United States condemns it.” Haley was asked about Trump’s remark last month that it was time for the US to withdraw its troops from Syria. She said, “It is all of our goal to see American troops come home. But we’re not going to leave until we know we’ve accomplished” the main objectives.

US allies in the region “need to step up more,” she said. “It shouldn’t just be us doing it. I think that’s the right approach. But be very clear, if we leave, when we leave, it will be because we know that everything is moving forward. We’re very invested in the political process in Geneva and invested on a political solution, and those talks continue.” The ambassador noted that this is “a very strained time between the United States and Russia.

“The military strikes did not have to happen if Russia had not covered for Assad,” she said. “Six times, they vetoed (UN) chemical weapons resolutions related to Syria, and this last resolution that they had, they only had three votes out of 15.

“The international community is telling Russia that either you make a decision on how you act and when you act, or the rest of us will make a decision in isolating you,” Haley said.

“But our hope is always to make sure we can get a better relationship with Russia,” she added. “It’s in our best national interest to do that. But we’re not going to put up with bad behavior to get it.

Source: Kuwait News Agency