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Trump praises 'perfectly carried out' missile strike, but lacks an overall strategy toward Syria

Laura King, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- As President Donald Trump basks in widespread approval for the U.S.-led missile strike aimed at Syrian chemical-weapons installations, his administration still faces a quandary over U.S. policy toward that country's civil war -- and some sharp questions about the president's war powers.

Trump has yet to articulate a long-term U.S. strategy for dealing with the multi-sided war in Syria, which has lasted more than seven years, killed hundreds of thousands of people and triggered an epic refugee crisis.

Only days before the missile attack, Trump called for a rapid U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, which critics said would yield control of the country to Russia and Iran, allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., was among those who said that Trump's words had "emboldened" Assad to use chemical weapons.

Several lawmakers asserted Sunday that the president should have sought congressional approval for the missile strike, launched in response to reports of deadly poison-gas strikes on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. Congress, however, repeatedly has ducked votes on Syria policy since the fighting began there in March 2011.

But even some people who have expressed vehement disagreement with Trump's previous actions voiced support for the strike, which was carried out in coordination with the United Kingdom Britain and France.

Former CIA Director John Brennan was among those who praised the action as "proportional and necessary to send a signal."

Brennan, who is now an analyst for NBC and spoke on the network's "Meet the Press," said "the administration's actions against Syria were appropriate -- and I tend to be a critic of this administration."

In the longer term, though, Brennan said solutions in Syria were likely to be evasive.

"I think we have to continue to put the pressure on the Assad regime, try to hit them when they use chemical weapons, but not get involved in another full-scale war in the Middle East," he said.

Pentagon officials have said that the strike significantly damaged Syria's capacity to research and produce chemical weapons. But they have not claimed that the attack eliminated Assad's ability to carry out future chemical attacks.


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