Macron Says He Changed Trump’s Mind on Syria

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday he “convinced” President Trump to stay in Syria before the United States, United Kingdom and France launched strikes against targets at three sites Friday night, CNN reports.

Said Macron: “Ten days ago, President Trump said the USA’s will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay.”

U.S. Declares Syria Strikes a Success

“Defense Department officials said on Saturday that American-led strikes against Syria had taken out the ‘heart’ of President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program, but acknowledged that the Syrian government most likely retained some ability to again attack its own people with chemical agents,” the New York Times reports.

“Warplanes and ships from the United States, Britain and France launched more than 100 missiles at three chemical weapons storage and research facilities near Damascus and Homs, the officials told reporters, in an operation that President Trump and Pentagon leaders hailed as a success.”

President Trump tweeted: “Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”

Trump Says Response to Syria Attack Coming Soon

President Trump said that his administration would be making decisions about its response to a chemical attack in Syria within the next 24 to 48 hours, decrying the action as “atrocious” and “horrible,” the Washington Post reports.

Said Trump: “This is about humanity, and it can’t be allowed to happen.”

New York Times: “The challenge for Mr. Trump’s Middle East policy came on a day when he was already facing a transition in his foreign policy team as his new national security adviser, John Bolton, arrived for his first day on the job and the president was scheduled to host the nation’s senior military leaders for dinner at the White House.”

Trump Raises Prospect of Missile Strike on Syria

President Trump “promised a ‘big price’ to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack that choked dozens of Syrians to death the day before, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike to retaliate against the government of President Bashar al-Assad,” the New York Times reports.

“In a tweet, Mr. Trump laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir Putin of Russia, the first time since his election that he has criticized the Russian leader by name on Twitter.”

Trump Gets Testy at National Security Team

President Trump “grew irritated with his top military brass and national security team on Tuesday when they advised him an immediate withdrawal of US troops from Syria would be unwise and could not provide a timeline for when American forces could exit,” CNN reports.

“In a sometimes-tense meeting of his national security team, Trump complained at length about the amount of American money being spent in the region, which he said had produced nothing for the US in return.”

Trump Tells Military to Plan for Syria Withdrawal

“President Trump has instructed military leaders to prepare to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, but has not set a date for them to do so,” the Washington Post reports.

“In a meeting with top national security officials Tuesday, Trump stressed that U.S. troops can be involved in current training tasks for local forces to ensure security in areas liberated from the Islamic State. But the president said that the U.S. mission would not extend beyond the destruction of the Islamic State.”

Indicted Russian Oligarch Controls Mercenaries in Syria

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch indicted last week by special counsel Robert Mueller, is believed “to control the Russian mercenaries who attacked U.S. troops and their allies in Syria this month” and “was in close touch with Kremlin and ­Syrian officials in the days and weeks before and after the assault,” the Washington Post reports.

Russia Attacked U.S. Troops In Syria

Eli Lake: “If you’ve been listening just to the Kremlin and the Pentagon, you probably didn’t know that Russia attacked American forces and their allies in Syria last week, suffering heavy casualties.”

“Yes, all sides admit that there was an incident at a U.S. base in Deir Ezzor. And that elements of the Syrian regime and Shiite militias participated in the assault. The Pentagon and Kremlin both acknowledge that Russian “mercenaries” participated, too. But the line for now is that those contractors had gone rogue, and Moscow didn’t know anything about it.”
“But make no mistake: There is overwhelming evidence that those Russian contractors were working at the behest of the Kremlin.”

U.S. Strikes Killed Scores of Russian Fighters in Syria

“U.S. forces killed scores of Russian contract soldiers in Syria last week in what may be the deadliest clash between citizens of the former foes since the Cold War,” Bloomberg reports.

“More than 200 mercenaries, mostly Russians fighting on behalf of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, died in a failed attack on a base and refinery held by U.S. and U.S.-backed forces in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor region, two of the Russians said. The U.S. official put the death toll at about 100, with 200 to 300 injured.”

Trump Ends Covert Program to Arm Syrian Rebels

“President Trump has decided to end the CIA’s covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the government of Bashar al-Assad, a move long sought by Russia,” the Washington Post reports.

“Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests. The shuttering of the program is also an acknowledgment of Washington’s limited leverage and desire to remove Assad from power.”

U.S. Will Let Russia Decide Future of Syria

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres during a private State Department meeting last week that the fate of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad now lies in the hands of Russia, and that the Trump administration’s priority is limited to defeating the Islamic State,” Foreign Policy reports.

“The remarks offer the latest stop on a bumpy U.S. policy ride that has left international observers with a case of diplomatic whiplash as they try to figure out whether the Trump administration will insist that Assad step down from power. Nearly three months ago, Tillerson had insisted that Assad would have to leave office because of his alleged use of chemical weapons.”