President Donald Trump said Thursday that an attack on Syria could take place "very soon or not so soon at all", arguing he had never signaled the timing of retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack that he had suggested was imminent a day earlier.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the President still wants to pull U.S. troops from Syria once ISIS is defeated there and rejected the notion that his comments about a future withdrawal may have emboldened the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
US ability to influence events in Syria has been vanishingly small since Barack Obama ignored the "red line" he drew in 2012 regarding Syrian chemical weapons.
As tensions mounted over a face-off with Damascus-ally Russian Federation, opponents of unilateral USA action called an emergency closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council for Thursday.
Trump tweeted early Wednesday morning that "nice and new and "smart" missiles would soon be launched at Syria, where the government is believed to be behind a chemical attack on Saturday that left 70 dead and more than 500 others injured.
But in tweeting about a potential attack, Trump appeared to publicly telegraph military plans - something for which he heavily criticized former President Barack Obama back in 2013.
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McDonald told the Prime Minister: "I am not convinced that the retaliatory airstrikes being proposed by the United States is a proper way forward".
If the administration does embrace a more expansive response, it could risk stumbling into a new Syria strategy - a de facto policy of open conflict with Assad and his backers.
The OPCW said it would "shortly" deploy a fact-finding team to Douma for an investigation, but United States officials said they were working from their own information and would not necessarily hold back.
Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had brokered a deal with Syria's ally Russian Federation to remove chemical stockpiles from the country, a strategy that also failed.
The Russian army on Wednesday accused the White Helmets civil defence organisation of staging a chemical weapons attack in Douma, where observers say more than 40 people died in a gas attack.
Even before those revelations, sources told CNN that Trump was already convinced that Mueller, who referred information about Cohen to prosecutors in NY, had busted out of his lane of probing alleged Russian election collusion.
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"Our decision will not target allies of the regime or attack anyone but rather attack the regime's chemical capabilities", he said, insisting he did "not want an escalation".
"The only thing I worry about is that it's not going to happen", he said about a possible military response.
The picture of an aggressive President openly mulling an audacious power move to end a lawful probe into his campaign, while deliberately stoking tensions in a risky war zone, is one that many of his pre-election critics had feared.
The U.S. has about 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria as advisers to a makeshift group of anti-Islamic State fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces. A U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.
Officials say the president is also considering targeting supply flights sent by Iran and economic sanctions against Russian Federation and Syria.
Since then, the Al Assad regime is alleged to have repeatedly used chlorine and other chemicals, forcing Pentagon planners to consider broader action.
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This latest chemical attack in Douma came days after Trump indicated a quick USA withdrawal from Syria after defeating the Daesh terror group.