Trump: 'Mission accomplished' on 'perfectly executed' Syria strike

  • Trump praised Western air strikes against the Syrian government on Saturday.
  • He echoed George W. Bush's fateful words on Iraq: "Mission Accomplished"

President Donald Trump hailed the U.S.-led intervention in Syria as "perfectly executed," adding that the military campaign to degrade Bashar Assad's chemical weapons capability had accomplished its goals.

Less than a day after U.S., British and French forces targeted suspected chemical weapons sites in retaliation to an attack that left dozens of civilians dead last week, Trump thanked the U.S. coalition partners.

Yet in an echo of former president George W. Bush, Trump used words that ultimately came back to haunt his predecessor, by pronouncing "Mission Accomplished." That characterization raised questions about whether Western forces would intervene again if Assad used chemical weapons again, or if the conflict escalated amid Russia's growing bellicosity.

Defense Secretary James Mattis called the strikes a "one time shot" aimed at the Syrian government's chemical weapons infrastructure.

"Clearly, the Assad regime did not get the message last year," Mattis told reporters on Friday from the Pentagon.

"Together we have sent a clear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable."

Back in May 2003, Bush prematurely declared the Iraq war as being over, in the wake of U.S. forces successfully toppling the government of Saddam Hussein. The event, staged on a U.S. bomber under a massive banner that screamed "Mission Accomplished," overshadowed the years of conflict and bloodshed that followed.

In a briefing on Saturday, Pentagon officials also described the Syria bombing as having successfully accomplished its goals.

Trump's declaration came as Moscow, which is backing Syria in its long civil conflict, has denounced the bombing campaign with undisguised contempt. In the wake of Friday's strike, Russia's ambassador to the U.S. warned of "consequences," while Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly called the intervention an "act of aggression."

--CNBC's Amanda Macias contributed to this article.