U.S. to sanction companies connected with Syria’s chemical-weapons program

A Syrian soldier spray water on the wreckage of a building described as part of the Scientific Studies and Research Centre compound in the Barzeh district, north of Damascus, during a press tour organised by the Syrian information ministry, on April 14, 2018. The United States is preparing to announce sanctions Monday against companies connected with Syria’s chemical-weapons program and push the United Nations for a full investigation of the Assad regime’s use of poison gas on the battlefield.

Coming three days after American, British and French air strikes against three of dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical facilities, the measures are meant to crank up the pressure on Syria to avoid a repeat of its attack on Douma earlier this month, during which the Syrian army is accused of deploying chlorine and sarin in retaking the city from rebel forces.

The moves – along with American warnings that Russia, Syria’s ally, has deployed internet trolls in a disinformation campaign about the air strikes – show an increased willingness by the Trump administration to confront the Kremlin, even as some of the President’s associates remain embroiled in an investigation over whether they colluded with Moscow to tip the 2016 U.S. election.

Nikki Haley, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, said on CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that she will roll out penalties for companies “that were dealing with equipment” connected to the Syrian chemical-weapons program. Ms. Haley, along with her British and French counterparts, will also press the UN to investigate the program and kick-start negotiations aimed at ending Syria’s bloody civil war.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, doubled down on his “Mission Accomplished!” tweet on the air strikes – even as it remains unclear that the bombing campaign will actually stop Mr. al-Assad from using gas again.

The President took heat for using the phrase, which is heavily associated with a speech on May 1, 2003, by then-president George W. Bush, who declared victory in the U.S. invasion of Iraq while standing on an aircraft carrier with a banner emblazoned with the slogan behind him. Iraq, however, promptly descended into civil war and, 15 years later, U.S. troops are still there.

Mr. Trump hit back Sunday.

“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,’” he tweeted. “I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!”

In a Pentagon briefing Saturday, officials said the more than 100 missiles fired by the United States and its allies appeared to have got through to their targets and destroyed them. But they could not say exactly how much of Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile had been eliminated. U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday defended his use of the phrase “mission accomplished” over the U.S.-led missile strikes on Syrian targets after it was seized on by the media. Reuters Rex Brynen, a Middle East expert at McGill University, said the highly targeted […]

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