To recap: The president publicly suggested that the U.S. military would launch some sort of retaliatory strike when he talked to reporters ahead of his April 9 cabinet meeting.
“We are meeting with our military and everybody else, and we'll be making some major decisions over the next 24 to 48 hours,” Trump said at the time. “We are very concerned when a thing like that can happen. This is about humanity. We're talking about humanity. And it can't be allowed to happen.”
Trump’s announcement put the media into anticipation overdrive as some kind of action seemed imminent, but so far the only shots fired have been on Twitter. The latest exchange came Wednesday morning, when the president responded to boasts by Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon that U.S. missiles aimed at Syria would never get past Russian air defenses.
“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,” Trump tweeted. “Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to the verbal jousting on Wednesday by saying: “’Smart’ missiles must strike terrorists, not the legitimate government that has been fighting international terrorism on its territory for several years.”
As U.S. and Russian officials trade schoolyard comebacks, reliable information is becoming harder to come by. Earlier in the week, a Turkish Twitter troll spread a rumor that the guided missile destroyer USS Donald Cook was in Syrian waters, armed with 60 Tomahawks; CNN Turk picked up the story. The same Twitter troll claimed on April 10 that the U.S. Air Force had scrambled B-52s at Diego Garcia; it had not.
When Task & Purpose asked the Pentagon whether it would be considered an act of war if the Russians shot down any U.S. Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria, a spokesman responded: “We are not going to get into hypothetical responses to hypothetical events.”
Pentagon reporters are getting the same response to virtually all their Syria questions — though, in fairness to the military, one DoD source told Task & Purpose, recent media queries have come in three opsec-unfriendly flavors:
Which ships, aircraft, missiles and troops will be used against Syria?
Where are they now?
When will they be used?
When — or if — the United States does take action against Syria, the message will be heard loud and clear in Damascus: Using chemical weapons to kill innocent people triggers a righteous U.S. military response. No rush, though.
Islamic state members walk in the last besieged neighborhood in the village of Baghouz, Deir Al Zor province, Syria February 18, 2019. (Reuters/Rodi Said)
NEAR BAGHOUZ, Syria (Reuters) - The Islamic State appeared closer to defeat in its last enclave in eastern Syria on Wednesday, as a civilian convoy left the besieged area where U.S.-backed forces estimate a few hundred jihadists are still holed up.
Russian President Vladimir Putin fires a fortress cannon. (Associated Press/Sputnik/Alexei Druzhinin)
Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Wednesday that Russia will target the U.S. with new weapons should Washington decide to deploy intermediate-range ballistic missiles (ICBMs) to Europe following the recent death of a Cold War-era arms control agreement, according to multiple reports.
He threatened to target not only the host countries where U.S. missiles might be stationed but also decision-making centers in the U.S.
U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 317th Airlift Wing walk to waiting family members and friends after stepping off of a C-130J Super Hercules at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 17, 2018 (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)
The U.S. Air Force has issued new guidelines for active-duty, reserve and National Guard airmen who are considered non-deployable, and officials will immediately begin flagging those who have been unable to deploy for 12 consecutive months for separation consideration.