Photo by US Navy, MC1 Chad Butler

President Trump orders US Armed Forces to launch airstrikes on Syria

Caitlin M. Kenney
April 13, 2018 - 8:21 pm

ARLINGTON, Va.-- On Friday evening, President Donald Trump ordered precision strikes on targets in Syria in response to President Bashar al-Assad regime’s chemical attack on Douma almost a week ago which killed reportedly more than 40 people.

He said the targets are associated with Syria’s "chemical weapons capabilities."

“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,” Trump said. “Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.”

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents,” Trump added.

The strikes started just after 9:00 pm eastern time, with the United States joined by French and British armed forces in a combined operation.

The president also had a message to Iran and Russia:

“To Iran and to Russia, I ask, what kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children,” Trump said. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.”

He ended by asking Americans to say a prayer for the US and allied forces as they carried out the strike.

About an hour after the White House announcement, Defense Secretary Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, held a press briefing at the Pentagon on the strike.

“Earlier today, President Trump directed the US military to conduct operations, in consonance with our allies, to destroy the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons research, development, and production capabilities,” Mattis said.

The strikes targeted three Syrian military locations, a scientific research center near Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility near Homs, and then nearby to the second target, a chemical weapons storage facility as well as a command post.

US, French, and British naval and air forces were involved in the operation, said Dunford. 

More than twice as many weapons was used in this strike compared to last year’s strike, Mattis said, which was 59 tomahawk missiles.

“I want to emphasize that these strikes are directed at the Syrian regime,” he said. “In conducting these strikes, we have gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.”

“But it is a time for all civilized nations to urgently unite in ending the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations-backed Geneva peace process,” he said. 

They are “very confident,” Mattis said, that chlorine was used in the recent Douma chemical weapon attack, and they were “not ruling out sarin right now.”

The Friday night strike was “a one time shot,” said Mattis, but if Assad decides to use chemical weapons again, they would be given a reason to challenge him.

“I believe that it sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him, from doing this again,” he added.

The US used their deconfliction channels with Russia about the air space, but Dunford emphasized that they did not coordinate targets or pre-notify them.The strike comes after days of tweets and statements from Trump about a potential military response.

On Wednesday, he tweeted about Russia needing to “get ready” because missiles fired at Syria “will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’”

Responding to a reporter’s question about the US military's readiness to strike Syria, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said, “We stand ready to provide military options if they're appropriate, as the President determines.”

The following morning Thursday, as he reached the 48-hour mark, Trump tweeted “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

By Friday morning at the United Nations Security Council, Ambassador Nikki Haley condemned Russia for aiding Syria by not doing enough to stop the regime from using chemical weapons on its own people.

 “It is Russia alone that had agreed to be the guarantor of the removal of all chemical weapons in Syria,” she said. “If Russia had lived up to its commitment, there would be no chemical weapons in Syria and we would not be here today.”

Haley also accused Assad’s regime of having used chemical weapons during the Syrian war an estimated 50 times.

"The world must not passively accept the use of chemical weapons after almost a century of their prohibition,” she added.

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