The President is battling to retain order as global threats develop on several fronts. Picture: AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
The President is battling to retain order as global threats develop on several fronts. Picture: AFP Photo / Saul Loeb

Truth about ‘fake’ Trump picture

THE black-and-white photo of Donald Trump meeting with his most senior staff in the White House Situation Room was reminiscent of an image of Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton watching the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011 in the same room.

But White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders eventually had to own up to a slightly misleading caption on her Saturday tweet: "Last night the President put our adversaries on notice: when he draws a red line he enforces it."

The photo was in fact taken on Thursday rather than the night after, when the strikes were agreed. This was spotted by eagle-eyed reporters who knew US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and vice president Mike Pence were not in Washington on Friday.

"The President put our adversaries on notice that he enforces red lines with the strike on Syria Friday night," Ms Sanders clarified. "The photo was taken Thursday in the Situation Room during Syria briefing."

Last night the President put our adversaries on notice: when he draws a red line he enforces it. (Inside the Situation Room as President is briefe...

Donald Trump had wanted to strike Syria even harder, but was persuaded out of it. Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
Donald Trump had wanted to strike Syria even harder, but was persuaded out of it. Picture: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

But the reality of how his decision to strike Syria unfolded is in fact a reason for alarm on how the tense situation could unfold from here.

Mr Trump wanted a "more robust attack" on Bashar al-Assad's regime, people familiar with the process told the Wall Street Journal.

Defence secretary Jim Mattis offered three options - striking a few targets linked to Mr Assad's production of chemical weapons, striking a wider set of military targets including research facilities and military command centres, or crippling the Syrian military and Russian air forces in the country.

The President was reportedly persuaded by Mr Mattis to focus on Syria's chemical weapons capabilities, although he and Ms Haley were eager for the talks to consider strikes on Russian and Iranian targets.

But there is still potential for the aggression to ramp up, particularly after Syria continued to strike rebel-held towns and Russia warned of "chaos in international relations."

As anti-war protests took place across the world following the Syria strike, both the President's supporters and his detractors are concerned about an impending war.

Graffiti in the rebel-held Syrian town of Binnish compares the President’s strike to ‘a rooster’s fart.’ Picture: AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour
Graffiti in the rebel-held Syrian town of Binnish compares the President’s strike to ‘a rooster’s fart.’ Picture: AFP Photo/Omar Haj Kadour

Mr Trump has made it clear he wants to withdraw troops from the Middle East, but he still wanted his joint strike with the United Kingdom and France to be even more destructive to the Syrian regime.

In the background, Mr Trump faces a threat from both an increasingly active Russia and growing tensions with China. While Ms Haley indicated that more sanctions against Moscow would be announced on Monday, Ms Sanders appeared to backtrack, saying: "We are considering additional sanctions on Russia and a decision will be made in the near future."

The President is said to be distressed that the US ended up expelling far more Russian diplomats than any other country, when he simply wanted to do the equivalent.

William Burns, former deputy secretary of state and US ambassador to Russia, told a WSJ conference last week that Vladimir Putin sees "a kind of straight-line effort across [American] administrations to keep down his power."

The US and UK today accused Russia of carrying out a series of cyber-attacks in order to spy on businesses and other governments, and steal information.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also represents a very real threat. Picture: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also represents a very real threat. Picture: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP

The recent expulsions, sanctions and now strike by the West would probably be seen by Mr Putin "as a concerted assault on Russian interests," warned Mr Burns. He also said global arms-control infrastructure was "crumbling", leaving the world in a dangerous position.

Mr Trump, beset by a critical public and revolving door of senior staff, needs to restore stability rather than provoke tensions.

His primary current protection appears to be his relatively cordial relationships with Xi Jinping and Mr Putin, but there are concerns over whether these will last.

And there are further threats from elsewhere in the Middle East, with the New York Times warning that Israel and Iran are using Syria as a stage to attack each other's troops.

Experts are concerned over escalating tensions with Vladimir Putin. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP
Experts are concerned over escalating tensions with Vladimir Putin. Picture: Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned this weekend that the US-led attack on Syria was a "crime," as the country's foreign ministry warned of unspecified consequences.

White House national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo both want a more forceful US military response towards Iran and North Korea.

It's no surprise that many foreign policy experts are against further action in Syria and nervous about what happens next.

Retired US army colonel Larry Wilkerson, ex-chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, told The Hill in an email: "I fear greatly that there is much more of this sort of thing to come."

Mr Trump was today at Mar-a-Lago in Florida meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and discuss trade and North Korea.


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