Iraq or Syria? Trump recalls dessert perfectly, forgets who he bombed & internet erupts

US President Donald Trump revealed he informed Chinese Premier Xi Jinping about the US air strike on a Syrian military base as the pair ate "the most beautiful" chocolate cake. He then mixed up Syria and Iraq – and the internet had a meltdown.

Trump was speaking with Fox Business about the bizarre exchange with Chinese leader during a summit at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

We had finished dinner, we’re now having dessert,” Trump began. “And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it.

READ MORE: Trump says he told Xi how he bombed Syria over ‘most beautiful piece of cake’

We’ve just fired 59 missiles, all of which hit by the way, unbelievable, from hundreds of miles away, it’s brilliant, it’s genius, what we have in terms of technology no-one can come close to competing,” he continued.

So I said, we’ve just launched 59 missiles, heading to Iraq,” said the President, seemingly oblivious to his mistake. http://gph.is/1TUMIPk

what animated GIF

Heading to Syria,” host Maria Bartiromo interjected. “Yes,” Trump replied, “heading toward Syria.”

Naturally, Twitter was set alight by the gaffe.

@ChelseaClinton Disturbing that Trump remembers what he ate (chocolate cake) - but not where he sent missiles (Syria, not Iraq as he says until corrected) https://twitter.com/kylegriffin1/status...

@RegBarclay2017 Trump: President Xi, I just want you to know I just fired 59 cruise missiles at [Iraq] Syria.

@BraddJaffy Trump: Over dessert “I said we’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq”

@LawyerRogelio Trump he can remember that they were eating a beautiful chocolate cake but can't remember that the missiles were sent to Syria and NOT Iraq. pic.twitter.com/U00hvhPhij

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Idlib ‘chemical attack’ was false flag to set Assad up, more may come – Putin

Russia has information of a potential incident similar to the alleged chemical attack in Idlib province, possibly targeting a Damascus suburb, President Vladimir Putin said. The goal is to discredit the government of Syrian President Assad, he added.

“We have reports from multiple sources that false flags like this one – and I cannot call it otherwise – are being prepared in other parts of Syria, including the southern suburbs of Damascus. They plan to plant some chemical there and accuse the Syrian government of an attack,” he said at a joint press conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in Moscow.

Damascus denied the allegations, noting that the targeted area may have been hosting chemical weapons stockpiles belonging to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or Al-Nusra Front jihadists.

The incident has not been properly investigated as yet, but the US fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase in a demonstration of force over what it labeled a chemical attack by Damascus.

“President Mattarella and I discussed it, and I told him that this reminds me strongly of the events in 2003, when the US representatives demonstrated at the UN Security Council session the presumed chemical weapons found in Iraq. The military campaign was subsequently launched in Iraq and it ended with the devastation of the country, the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] on the world stage,” he added.

It was the first time the US had targeted Syrian troops deliberately. The White House says it will repeat military action in response to any possible new chemical weapon attacks.

“The sight of people being gassed and blown away by barrel bombs ensures that if we see this kind of action again, we hold open the possibility of future action,” spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday.

Putin reiterated the call to properly investigate what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, saying that the alleged use of chemical weapons demands one.

“We are planning to address the corresponding UN structure in The Hague and call on the international community to thoroughly investigate all those reports and take appropriate action based on the results of such a probe,” he said.

A separate report of a potential false flag operation in Syria came from the Russian General Staff, which said militants were transporting toxic agents into several parts of Syria, including Eastern Ghouta, the site of the 2013 chemical weapons incident.

“These actions are aimed at creating a new pretext for accusing the government of Syria of more chemical weapons attacks and provoking more strikes by the US,” said Colonel General Sergey Rudskoy, the head of Operations.

cal weapons found in Iraq. The military campaign was subsequently launched in Iraq and it ended with the devastation of the country, the growth of the terrorist threat and the appearance of Islamic State [IS, formerly ISIS] on the world stage,” he added.

 

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US completely unwilling to cooperate on Syria & consider other interests – Kremlin

Actions of the US in Syria demonstrate a “complete unwillingness” to cooperate and take into account “interests and concerns” of the other actors in the region, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“The US side thus has demonstrated a complete unwillingness to somehow cooperate on Syria and take into account each others' interests and concerns,” Peskov said, while commenting on the suspension of the Memorandum on Air Safety in the aftermath of the US missile strike on Syrian military airfield overnight on Thursday.

 
FILE PHOTO © Carlos M. Vazquez

The memorandum has lost its merit after the incident, Peskov said.

While the technical means to exchange military data with the US remained, there would be no further info swap, he added.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Flight Safety was signed in October 2015, after Russia came to Syria to fight international terrorism at the invitation of the country’s government. It was designed to prevent possible incidents between the Russian and US Air Forces operating independently in the region.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Moscow on April 11-12, although President Vladimir Putin does not have a meeting planned with him “so far,” according to Peskov. The only confirmed official contact with the Russian leadership on Tillerson’s agenda is with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“So far there is no meeting with Tillerson on the president’s schedule,” Peskov told reporters in a phone call. “We never announce such meetings, whether they will take place or not – we won’t announce it.”

The Kremlin spokesman assured reporters though that if there is such a plan, media would be “properly notified.”

While Tillerson’s visit is expected to take place as planned, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled his own trip to Russia, citing the need to “talk with G7 counterparts” over “developments in Syria.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the explanation for the last-minute cancellation “absurd.”

Washington has been sending mixed messages over the past few days following the missile strike. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Hayley, have lately expressed somewhat contradictory views on Syria. While both of them named the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) a “top priority,” Tillerson said that the future of Syria and President Bashar Assad should be decided by the country’s people. Hayley, however, said that ousting Assad is still among the top priorities for Washington.

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US missile strike in Syria: What we know so far about target, victims & reactions

The US launched a missile strike on a Syrian airbase, killing at least six people, including civilians, and wounding several others. Reactions to the operation continue to roll in, with Russia condemning it while EU countries and others express support.

US President Donald Trump ordered the military strike on an airfield in Shayrat, near Homs, which resulted in a Friday pre-dawn strike in which 59 Tomahawk missiles were deployed.

Six MiG-23 fighter jets were destroyed in the operation, along with a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen and a radar station, according to Russia's Ministry of Defense (MoD).

READ MORE: 1st footage of destruction at US-hit Shayrat airbase in Syria (VIDEO)

However, the airfield's runway remained intact, according to the MoD, which described the operation's efficiency as “quite poor.”

Syrian officials have so far confirmed that six people were killed and several others wounded in the operation.

However, the governor of Homs told RT that at least five people had been killed, three of whom were Syrian soldiers. He also stated that at least seven people had been wounded.

Meanwhile, Syria's SANA news agency has reported nine civilian deaths, including four children. 

Global reaction 

The office of Syrian President Bashar Assad called the US strike “reckless”,“irresponsible” and “shortsighted,” claiming the motives the strike weren't based on true facts.

 

U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations against Syria on April 7, 2017. © Ford Williams / Courtesy U.S. Navy / Handout via REUTERS

The Syrian Army called the strike “blatant aggression,” stating that it makes the US a partner of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist organizations.

Homs Governor Talal Barazi told Syrian state television that Syria's leadership and policy will not change as a result of the missile attack, pledging that the targeted airfield will be rebuilt and continue to play a role in fighting terrorists.

Russia also condemned the strike, saying it is suspending an agreement with the US to prevent incidents and ensure flight safety during military operations in Syria. Under the agreement, the two sides had exchanged information about planned flights in the area.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that strike reminds him of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was launched without approval from the UN Security Council. He went on to state that Washington has not presented any evidence to back its allegation that Damascus was behind the chemical attack.

Iran, a key ally of Assad, called the strikes “dangerous” and “destructive,” saying they violate international law.

Meanwhile, European countries have expressed support for the assault, including France, Germany, the UK and Italy.

@DefenceHQ Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has welcomed US strikes on a Syrian airfield last night, saying they were 'limited and appropriate'.

French President Francois Hollande said Assad bears full responsibility for the strike, and said Russia should take it as a “warning” to push for a political solution to the Syrian conflict.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk says the strike is a needed action against “barbaric” chemical attacks, adding that the EU will work with the US to end the Syrian conflict.

@eucopresident US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkey has also voiced support for the operation, with Ankara accusing Damascus of “humanitarian crimes.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the operation "positive" and a "concrete step taken against the war crimes of the Assad regime," but said it isn't enough on its own. He added that "serious steps" are needed for the protection of innocent Syrians, Reuters reported.

The prime minister of Israel, a staunch ally of the US, said Trump has sent a message that chemical weapons will not be tolerated. Benjamin Netanyahu went on to say that he hopes the message will extend not only to Damascus, but to other countries, including Iran and North Korea.

Saudi Arabia called the strike a “courageous decision” by Trump, expressing its full support, SPA news agency reported, citing a statement from Riyadh. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also expressed support for the strike.

Japan has also voiced support for the operation.

China, which has historically sided with Russia at the UN in opposing condemnation of Assad's government, said it had “noted” the latest developments, but did not mention the missile attack specifically. It went on to state that the most urgent task to was to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Further steps 

Following the strike, Moscow called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he regards the strike as an “aggression against a sovereign nation,” according to his spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He also said Putin believes the strike was carried out “in violation of international law” and “under an invented pretext.”

Rand Paul  © Eric Thayer

Moscow also vowed to take “a number of measures” to strengthen and improve Syria's air defense system in order to protect “vital parts of Syrian infrastructure,” according to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov.

The missile strike, which Trump said was in America's national interest in order to prevent the use of chemical weapons, came after a chemical attack took place in Idlib, Syria, earlier this week. The US operation took place before any investigations were concluded.

Up to 86 people, including 26 children, are alleged to have been killed in the chemical attack, with images showing civilians choking and fainting, and some foaming at the mouths.

Washington has accused the Syrian government of being behind the “barbaric” attack.

However, Russia's Ministry of Defense has confirmed that the chemical release was the result of the Syrian Army destroying a rebel warehouse where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq. The ministry called the information “fully objective and verified.”

The Syrian Army also completely denied deploying chemical or toxic material, stating that it “has not used nor will use” such materials “in any place or time, neither in the past or in the future.”

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Syria denies & condemns use of chemical weapons – foreign minister

Syria’s foreign minister has dismissed allegations that the Syrian Army had deployed chemical weapons in the city of Idlib, saying the military will never use such weapons against its own people or even terrorists.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem denied claims that the military used chemical weapons in the western city of Idlib. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Muallem said an airstrike by Syrian military had targeted an arms depot where chemical weapons stockpiles were stored by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Nusra Front militants.

He said it’s impossible that the army – which has been making significant gains in almost all theaters of the Syrian war – would use banned chemical weapons against its “own people” and even terrorists.

 
Foreign Ministers and officials pose for a group photo as they take part in an international conference on the future of Syria and the region, in Brussels, Belgium, April 5, 2017. © Yves Herman

Asked if Damascus would allow a fact-finding mission into the Idlib incident, Muallem said past experience of similar investigations was “not encouraging.” He also said that he could not predict “the reality of US intentions” in Syria.

Muallem added that such a mission must not be politicized and must start its operations “from Damascus, not Turkey,” apparently referring to the latest statements by Ankara condemning the incident, as well as the fact that some victims were taken to Turkey for autopsy.

'Monstrous crime'

Meanwhile, Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president, said the Kremlin believes the Syrian military will do its utmost to prevent chemical agents from falling into the hands of terrorists.

“This was indeed a dangerous and monstrous crime, but in our opinion, it would be wrong to point fingers,” Peskov told reporters on Thursday. The Kremlin spokesman said Moscow does not agree with assessments provided by certain Western countries.

“Immediately after the tragedy no one had access to this area, so no one could have hard verifiable data. Consequently, any information which the US side or our colleagues from other countries might have had access to, could not be based on objective facts,” Peskov told reporters.

Though Peskov rejected “hasty assessments” of the alleged use of chemical weapons, he emphasized that there are always disagreements between Moscow and Washington, but mutual discords over the Idlib incident are unlikely to affect “the spirit of our cooperation.”

READ MORE: Rebels ‘only people who benefited’ from Idlib chemical weapons attack – analyst

Earlier in the day, the Russian Foreign Ministry dismissed as “unsubstantiated” statements by US Vice-President Mike Pence that Moscow and Damascus had failed to fulfill their obligations under a landmark 2013 deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons arsenals.

“I wouldn’t use profane language, especially when it comes to the second-most powerful man in the US administration, but I do believe that this is ignorance rather than irresponsibility,” Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the ministry’s Arms Control Department, said.

“The new administration has only recently begun reviewing its policy. Once that’s done, American officials’ statements, I hope, will become more accurate. There is no reason to say the US-Russia agreements [on eliminations Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles] did not work,” Ulyanov stated.

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Assad’s fate ‘to be decided by Syrian people,’ says Tillerson

At a news conference in the Turkish capital, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson appeared to suggest the end of Bashar Assad’s presidency was no longer a prerequisite for a way out of the Syrian crisis, in a U-turn from Washington’s long-held policy.

“I think the ... longer term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people,” said Tillerson at a joint conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevut Cavusoglu on Thursday, AFP reported.

 
Rex Tillerson and U.S. President Donald Trump © Carlos Barria

Under President Barack Obama, the United States made Assad’s departure one of its key objectives. The Syrian armed opposition also insisted upon the longtime leader’s resignation as one of the conditions during the Astana peace talks.

Tillerson added that there were no major disagreements between Turkey and the US over the NATO allies campaigns against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

“There's no space between Turkey and the US and our commitment to defeat Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS], to defeat ISIS,” he said.

However, this was met with disagreement from Cavusoglu, who complained about US support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, considered a terrorist group by Ankara.

“It is not good or realistic to work with a terrorist group while fighting another terrorist group,” Cavusoglu said, adding that Turkey expected “better cooperation” with the US over this issue.

Turkey said it is interested in supporting the operation to take the IS stronghold of Raqqa, but not if the Kurdish militia is involved, AP reports.

The Turkish authorities consider the YPG, or the People’s Protection Units, to be a Syrian faction of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), a banned Kurdish movement that has been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey since the 1980s.

Years of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition, as well as representatives from Moscow, Washington, Tehran, and other powers, have failed to bring an end to the Syrian crisis. The Astana talks launched in January, which hoped to bring all the key sides to the negotiating table, have stalled since the Syrian opposition pulled out in mid-March.

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Trump wading into Mideast quagmire over Turkey and Kurds in Syria

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave notice this week that the Trump administration was stepping up its military involvement in Syria and Iraq. But the military road map he laid out is in danger of leading the US even deeper into problems.

Most problematic perhaps is the fact that US forces are deepening their alliance with Kurdish militants in northern Syria. That has grave implications for a rupture with Washington’s key NATO ally Turkey, as well as the danger of an eventual confrontation with Syrian government forces.

Tillerson, the top US foreign policy official, was addressing leaders of the 68-nation American-led coalition gathered in Washington on plans to defeat Islamic State (IS or ISIS) terrorism.

Recall that President Trump had made signature promises during his election campaign that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS” – as well as “drain the swamp” of government inefficiency in Washington DC.

Keeping to his word about coming up with a master plan to defeat terrorism, the Trump administration this week announced a much more vigorous military intervention in Syria and Iraq than was seen under President Barack Obama.

@StateDept Secretary Tillerson outlines progress, successes in fight against ISIS.

The irony, however, is that while Obama spent eight years trying to get the US out of a quagmire in the Middle East created by his predecessor, GW Bush, now President Trump seems to be heading right back into the morass. Even more ironically is that Trump had used his inauguration speech on January 20 to say that his administration was done with “nation building” and costly military interventions overseas.

At least from what Tillerson announced this week during the coalition summit, it would appear that US military forces are preparing to occupy areas of Syria and Iraq for the long term. Said Tillerson: “The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS.”

There seems little ambiguity about what that entails. US troops are being committed to, if not nation building, then “region building” within countries.

Secretary of State Tillerson added: “Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support. The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort.”

Granted, it could all be just grandiose hot air from Washington, which will blow away as soon the military going gets tough.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration appears to be indeed wading deeply into the Middle East.

The clearest sign was the major airlift this week by US forces of Kurdish insurgents to Raqqa, the strategic ISIS stronghold in Syria. Up to 1,000 US marines were reportedly involved in the operation. The development evidently goes beyond Pentagon claims that its troops are acting merely as “military advisers” to Kurdish fighters. American forces are digging in as part of the anticipated offensive to take Raqqa.

And if the plans laid out by Tillerson are held to, then the US troops will remain in the area to help the Kurds build governance. The same goes for other areas in northern Syria and Iraq where American forces are deployed to “liberate from ISIS”.

Turkey is claiming that US military supplies to Kurdish militias have been boosted. It appears that Washington has decided to throw its weight behind the Kurds as the most effective fighting force against the Islamists. Previous attempts by the US to organize Sunni Arab formations have reportedly proven lackluster, to say the least.

However, in backing the Kurds, the Trump administration is risking a rupture with NATO ally Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly warned of a “collision course” if Washington persists in working with the Kurds. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are viewed by the Ankara government as “terrorists” affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based inside Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party fear that the Syrian Kurds will form an autonomous state in northern Syria, which in turn will serve to bolster the separatist Kurds across the border in Turkey.

When Turkey launched its incursion – dubbed Euphrates Shield – into northern Syria last August, the main reason cited by Ankara was to contain Kurdish militants and prevent them gaining a foothold around the Euphrates River.

Now it appears to Ankara that the US is sacrificing its longtime alliance by taking up arms with the Kurds – a sworn enemy of Turkey.

Reuters quotes one senior Turkish official fuming with exasperation, saying: “It appears that the US may carry out this operation with the YPG, not with Turkey. And at the same time the US is giving weapons to the YPG. If this operation is carried out in this manner there will be a cost for Turkey-US relations, because the YPG is a terrorist organization.”

In a separate report, another senior Turkish security official said Ankara had given Washington an ultimatum on the issue: “Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us… This message was delivered to the Americans.”

Turkey is demanding that the US backs Arab militias belonging to the so-called Free Syrian Army. But past experience has shown these units to be unreliable. Besides, the die seems to have already been cast, with Washington moving decisively to align with the Kurds.

US airlifts Syrian fighters in bid to surround in

If the Trump administration holds to its plan, as outlined this week by Rex Tillerson, of deploying US troops to consolidate self-governing areas, then the American presence with the Kurds will inevitably be for the long haul. That is going to intensify strains between Ankara and Washington. Just when Erdogan was hoping that the new Trump administration might be more amenable than the Obama one, which he fell afoul with over Syrian policy and the attempted coup in Turkey last July.

But a potential quagmire for Trump does not stop there. Syrian President Bashar al Assad recently warned that any US troops present in his country would be viewed as “aggressors”.

If American troops were to set up long-term missions to help the Kurds around Raqqa and northern Syria, it seems only a matter of time before the Syrian national army will be compelled to challenge the presence of US forces in the country. Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies have repeatedly said that Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity are inviolable.

Thus if Trump tries to make a gung-ho success of policy in the Middle East – and let’s face he needs to show some achievement given his domestic woes – his administration is liable to encounter multiple snafus. From the Turks, Kurds and Syrians, not to mention serious implications with regard to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Trump is already having wearisome trouble draining the swamp in Washington. The last thing he needs is to wade further into a Middle East quagmire.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

US Bombs School Shelter in Syria Killing 33 Civilians

"Most of these people had taken shelter in this building from the fighting and the planes. They were hiding for their lives," said one witness.

Reports emerged Wednesday that U.S. planes bombed a school sheltering displaced civilians just west of the Syrian town of Raqqa, killing an estimated 33 civilians.

RELATED: 70% Spike in Civilian Deaths by US-Led Coalition in Syria, Iraq

According to a local group called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, the school was sheltering around 50 families fleeing violence in the face of mounting U.S. backed coalition attacks on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, reported The Independent.

"There were only two survivors from this," said one witness, according to The Guardian. "And they have still been buried. Most of these people, maybe all of them, had taken shelter in this building from the fighting and the planes. They were hiding for their lives."

While U.S. officials did not confirm the attack on the shelter, they did acknowledge carrying out airstrikes in the area ahead of Wednesday's deployment of Kurdish ground forces as part of the offensive against Raqqa.Reuters reported that the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said local activists counted "at least" 33 bodies recovered from the bombed out school building just outside the village of al-Mansoura, in northern Syria.

The bombing comes less than a week after another reported U.S. bombing, of a Mosque in the Syrian town of al-Jinah, killed an estimated 41 civilians.

Monday's attack, also coming in the wake of a high-profile U.S. massacre of civilians in Yemen, has heightened concerns that the Trump administration will prove even deadlier than former President Obama's.

Some suspect that Trump has loosened restrictions on the use of drones — which increased dramatically and to deadly effect under President Obama — and other military tactics in areas held by the Islamic State group, thus further endangering civilian populations caught in the crossfire.

"There has not been a decree to that effect yet," an unnamed senior regional military source told The Guardian. "But there has been a definite change in mood. Often that is all it takes."

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