President Trump declared "Mission Accomplished" hours after USA and European forces bombarded three Syrian chemical weapons facilities with 105 missiles - with none intercepted by Syrian or Russian defenses.
His choice of words recalled a similar claim associated with President George W Bush following the US-led invasion of Iraq. Could not have had a better result.
But he appeared to conflict that message when he said on Saturday that Western allies were prepared to "sustain this response" if Assad does not stop using prohibited chemical weapons.
"We've attacked the heart of the Syrian chemical weapons program", said Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.
"If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded".
White stood by Trump's assessment of "mission accomplished".
Asked about Trump's "Mission Accomplished" assertion, White said it pointed to the successful targeting of three Syrian chemical weapons sites.
"We, of course, know our work in Syria is not done", U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on "Fox News Sunday". The military said there were three targets: the Barzah chemical weapons research and development site in the Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs and a chemical weapons "bunker" a few miles from the second target.
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As the Iraq War continued for years after the Bush administration's declaration, the photo was used to symbolize that mess.
The U.S. -led operation won broad Western support.
After shifting explanations, the White House eventually said the "Mission Accomplished" phrase referred to the carrier's crew completing its 10-month mission, not the military completing its mission in Iraq. The NATO alliance gave its full backing; NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the attack was about ensuring that chemical weapons can not be used with impunity. In fact, he said, "Our mission continues".
Several U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it was not a priority for the administration to push out Assad, who has survived with massive aid from Iran and Russian Federation. It is about ISIS and deterring Assad's use of chemical weapons.
French officials said the country faced a "double complexity" in carrying out operations: There was the more than 4,300-mile distance the French military traveled and then the synchronization required with allies.
While there appears to be no immediate alternative to the so-called Geneva Process that would lead to a political transition in Syria, several senior US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, insisted it has failed and it was time to rethink. He said the US knew of no civilians killed by allied missiles. U.S., British and French attack aircraft, including two U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, launched stealthy, long-range missiles from outside Syrian airspace, officials said. The World Health Organization said 70 were killed in the attack, with 43 dying from chemical exposure.
He added that he knew the media would "seize" on the phrase, but said it should be used often.