Foreign Policy

‘I’m Not Going to Tell You’

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

When Trump was asked if he planned to intervene in Syria after Assad launched a Sarin gas attack against the city of Idlib, he repeated a line that he's used many times over the past two years when discussing foreign policy.

"I'm certainly not going to be telling you" he said.

Trump told reporters he does not like to telegraph his responses.

“I’m not saying I’m doing anything one way or the other,” Trump said. “But I’m certainly not going to be telling you, as much as I respect you,” referring to the reporter who asked the question.

You may not want to publicly disclose yours plan (if you even have a plan) in the event that your enemies are listening, but that's exactly what Trump did in private.

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis confirmed that Russian forces were notified in advance of the cruise missile attack on an airfield held by the Assad regime and, naturally, that information was passed on to Assad's forces.

Witnesses say the targeted airfield in Shayrat was evacuated hours before the attack according to ABC News.

Syrian military officials appeared to anticipate Thursday night's raid on Syria's Shayrat air base, evacuating personnel and moving equipment ahead of the strike, according to an eyewitness. [...]

The eyewitness believes human casualties, at least within the civilian population, were minimal, as there was no traffic heading toward the local hospital.

The French press also reports that Syrian forces used the advance notice to move valuable equipment.

“We learned of the American threat and the expected military bombardment on Syrian territory,” the source told AFP.

“We took precautions in more than one military point, including in the Shayrat airbase. We moved a number of airplanes towards other areas,” the official said, adding they were forewarned “hours” before the strike.

From this we can infer that Trump's expensive attack on an empty airfield accomplished basically nothing, unless you consider provoking a wider conflict to be an accomplishment.

The Russians and Syrian forces loyal to Assad knew about the attack hours before the American public or members of Congress.

  • swift_4

    Trump doesn’t tell anyone what his plans in Syria are.

    Except he told the Russians the attack was coming.

  • muselet

    Lobbing a few dozen Tomahawks at air bases in Syria would be less alarming if the administration had anything even vaguely resembling a coherent policy. It doesn’t.

    This is Donald Trump doing something because he felt he needed to do something. He couldn’t explain why if his life depended on it.

    It’s going to be a long four years.


  • Nefercat

    “Syrian military officials … moving equipment ahead of the strike”
    Presumably including remaining sarin?

    • Username1016

      Well, I wouldn’t want them blowing up the sarin — wouldn’t it then rain down all over everybody nearby, making a helluva mess?

      • Tony Lavely

        My understanding (FWIW, I’m not a WMD specialist) is that sarin has a short shelf life and it’s usually not lethal until the final drop, or firing, when the two part mixture is actually mixed by the motion of the bomb or warhead.
        YMMV, of course.

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius
  • gescove

    Putin should help Assad construct Potemkin military targets. Our pretend President can then blow up more pretend airfields. Then the quisling hypocrites that are the Republican party and our pretend media can applaud his continued tough action.

  • Badgerite

    For show. But that can have a purpose. I don’t think the use of sarin gas on a civilian population should be ignored.

    • gescove

      It is galling that President Obama had a military strategy, went before Congress for authorization, and was denied. Despite the weaknesses of the agreement Obama hammered out with Syria and Russia, it did manage to significantly curtail chemical weapon use by Assad.

      • Badgerite

        I think Heather Parton ( Digby ) nails it in her article on this in Salon.
        This administration is like a loose cannon sending out contradictory messages and talking out of both sides of its mouth. The military strike was an attempt to clean up earlier comments by Tillerson and Haley that Assad interpreted as a green light to “take off the gloves”, as it were. As she says, this kind of misunderstanding and miscommunication is how wars start. Anyone thinking this is a ‘presidential’ moment can think again. It was anything but. None of this should have happened. All of it, including the chemical attack on civilians, happened because of trump regime actions.

        • I agree with most of what Digby said. But there was this….
          “Those clearly coordinated comments by Tillerson and Haley were a sloppy amateur move by the Trump administration”

          This was in reference to their ‘human rights are not a priority’ comments a couple of weeks ago. Given what we know today, that the Russians and the Syrians knew hours ahead of time, in retrospect it looks like they had this in mind all along. If their idiotic statements were “clearly coordinated” it would be a safe bet that Assad would hear it and try to push the limits by seeing if he could get away with gassing again. Maybe this was all set up so Herr Gropenfuhrer and his minions could swoop in and pretend to react militarily. It makes him look “presidential” and tough. It makes him look like he’s standing up to Putin and it will give the MSM something to talk about other than all the other screw-ups going on in his administration.