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US strikes on Syria: Are there more to come?

Donald Trump has delivered a very clear message to the world.

As one White House source put it: “This is a reaffirmation of America’s moral leadership in the world.”

The airstrikes Mr Trump ordered in response to the horrifying images from Syria were a swift and powerful demonstration of his thinking.

The man who, as a candidate, cautioned against getting involved in places like Syria has now put the US front and centre in the struggle to oust the country’s president Bashar al Assad.

It places him in stark contrast to his predecessor who talked of “red lines” over chemical weapon use in Syria but then delivered nothing.

Even this week, Mr Trump’s administration was pointing the finger at Barack Obama for failing to take action much earlier in the Syrian civil war.

To Mr Trump’s supporters, this will be seen as an illustration of decisive, strongman leadership qualities.

To his detractors, no doubt, it will raise questions over whether the US leader was too quick to take military action.


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Trump: ‘Assad chemical attack terrible’

Critics have wondered whether his new found concern for the Syrian people will extend to relaxing his restrictions on allowing refugees to come to the US.

Mr Trump has repeatedly said that America cannot be the world’s police force. His policy of “America First” has been seen as a sign of retreating from a role in the world’s conflict zones.

At the same time, he has signalled an intention to spend big on US military defence.

It is interesting that Mr Trump acted after briefings from his Defence Secretary James Mattis on the available military options. A respected former general, Mattis is not a man to rush to war.

Mr Trump said he acted in the “vital national security interest” of the US in stopping the spread and use of chemical weapons. It may cool some of Congress’s anger for not being informed of the strikes.


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The big question now is whether this was a short, sharp shock of punishment or whether this is the start of a bigger campaign in Syria.

The hints from Mr Trump, in calling on other countries to join the US in ending the “slaughter and bloodshed” in Syria, suggest there is more to come.

It also puts him in direct confrontation for the first time with Russian President Vladimir Putin, strong supporter of the Syrian regime, and a man who the US President has generally refused to condemn.


A rebel fighter fires his weapon, as rebels advance towards the northern Syrian town of al-Bab

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There is no appetite among the American people for another long and involved military intervention in the Middle East, certainly no desire to put troops on the ground.

But Mr Trump, who won the election with promises to restore respect for America around the world, has once again shown he is willing to deliver on those promises.

The journey from candidate to Commander in Chief is a short but dramatic one and Mr Trump is learning that only the most difficult of decisions reach his desk.

And, just hours before he was due to sit down with the Chinese leader, one wonders North Korean Kim Jong-un will make of this show of American strength.

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