Trump orders strikes on Assad airbase

Published: April 7, 2017
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he ordered missile strikes against a Syrian airfield from which a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched, declaring he acted in America’s “vital national security interest” against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Sharply escalating the US military role in Syria, two US warships fired dozens of cruise missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea against the airbase controlled by Assad’s forces in response to the poison gas attack on Tuesday in a rebel-held area, US officials said.

Facing his biggest foreign policy crisis since taking office in January, Trump took the toughest direct US action yet in Syria’s six-year-old civil war, raising the risk of confrontation with Russia and Iran, Assad’s two main military backers.

Pentagon presenting Syria military options to White House

US officials insisted they informed Russian forces ahead of the missile attacks and that there were no strikes on sections of the base where Russians were present. But they said the administration did not seek Moscow’s approval.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” Trump said from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, where he was attending a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump ordered the strikes just a day after he pointed the finger at Assad for this week’s chemical attack, which killed at least 70 people, many of them children, in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. The Syrian government has denied it was behind the attack.

Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were launched from the USS Porter and USS Ross around 8:40 p.m. EDT, striking multiple targets – including the airstrip, aircraft and fuel stations – on the Shayrat Air Base, which the Pentagon says was used to store chemical weapons.

“Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.

The attacks spurred a modest flight to safety in global financial markets, sending yields on safe-haven US Treasury securities to their lowest since November. Stocks weakened in Asia and US equity index futures slid, indicating Wall Street would open lower on Friday. Prices for oil and gold both rose, and the dollar slipped against the Japanese yen.

Syrian state TV said that “American aggression” had targeted a Syrian military base with “a number of missiles and cited a Syrian military source as saying the strike had “led to losses.”

Trump said: “Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. … Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.”

Syria ‘did not and will not’ use chemical weapons: FM

“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump said.

“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the UN Security Council,” he added.

Trump appeared to have opted for measured and targeted air attacks instead of a full-blown assault on Assad’s forces and installations.

“We feel the strike itself was proportionate,” said US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The relatively quick response to the chemical attack came as Trump faced a growing list of global problems, from North Korea and China to Iran and Islamic State, and may have been intended to send a message to friends and foes alike of his resolve to use military force if deemed necessary.

“One question is whether Russia will respond in any meaningful way,” said a senior US official involved in planning the raid. “If they do, they will be further complicit in the actions of the Syrian regime.”

‘SOMETHING SHOULD HAPPEN’

Trump said earlier on Thursday that “something should happen” with Assad but did not specifically call for his ouster.

Officials from the Pentagon and State Department met all day to discuss plans for the missile strikes.

US military action put the new president at odds with Russia, which has air and ground forces in Syria after intervening there on Assad’s side in 2015 and turning the tide against mostly Sunni Muslim rebel groups.

Trump has until now focused his Syria policy almost exclusively on defeating Islamic State militants in northern Syria, where US special forces are supporting Arab and Kurdish armed groups.

The risks have grown worse since 2013, when Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, considered and then rejected ordering a cruise missile strike in response to the use of chemical weapons by Assad’s loyalists.

Only last week, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said the US diplomatic policy on Syria for now was no longer focused on making Assad leave power, one of Obama’s aims.

But Trump said on Wednesday the gas attack in Idlib province, which sparked outrage around the world, had caused him to think again about Assad.

Speaking just before the strikes were announced, Russia’s deputy UN envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, warned of “negative consequences” if the United States went ahead with military action, saying the blame would be “on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise.”

US warns of ‘own action’ after Syria chemical massacre

The deployment of military force against Assad marked a major reversal for Trump.

Obama set a “red line” in 2012 against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. When Obama then threatened military action after a 2013 chemical attack, Trump issued a series of tweets opposing the idea, including “Do NOT attack Syria, fix USA”

Obama backtracked on the air strikes, and after the latest attack, Trump was quick to blame his Democratic predecessor for “weakness and irresolution” that he said emboldened Assad.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • abreez
    Apr 7, 2017 - 9:57AM

    America’s top priority in Mid East is tribal wars because tribal wars will guarantee ‘greater Israel’ ultimately.Recommend

  • Ibne Adam
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:04AM

    Syria had used chemical weapons before. No, military strike is not the answer. Assad must be brought to justice for war crimes, period.Recommend

  • Zaidi Iqbal Hadi
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:09AM

    I salute and wish others also must salute Donald Trump for attacking Syria when its president Assad used chemicals against its own population killing so savagely around 100 persons just 2 days back. My goodness, video showing children feeling difficulty in breathing and eventually dying cannot be seen by anyone who has heart. Tears rolled down in my eyes though I am 74. I simply cannot help writing that Assad used the same deadly weapon a few times in the past as well but was not punished except that UN condemned but condemnation as no meaning so far as Assad is concerned. Russia which backs Assad will have to think not once, twice or even thrice to stand up against US and resort to some punitive action against USA unless World War III is being initiated. I wish the situation does not boil to that extent but nevertheless we cannot and should not keep silent on such brutal killing in any case if we are human and not otherwise. Iqbal Hadi Zaidi / Kuwait / [email protected]Recommend

  • Implicated
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:10AM

    Both Russia and Iran must share the blame for the use of chemical weapons by ASSAD. The US reaction is an expected response. Recommend

  • MAT
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:11AM

    The responsibility for the sarin gas attack in Syria has not yet been established. While the US/West are blaming the Syrian government, those in the opposing camp are comparing the attack to the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was staged by the US military to justify its military escalation in Vietnam.
    The US has attacked Syria without authorization of the UN or its own Congress. This has been done ostensibly to save Syrian civilians from further atrocities by the Syrian government.
    The attack looks very much like the prelude to a widening US military campaign (The US will surely be supported by its poodle- the UK, and Israel and some Muslim countries).
    Remember what Western attacks did to Libya, once a prosperous country.
    Recommend

  • abreez
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:35AM

    America’s top priority in Mid East is tribal wars because tribal wars will guarantee ‘greater Israel’ ultimately. Someday both Arabs and Iranian will curse themselves for indulging so long in useless Arab-Iran tussle which make little Israel, greater Israel. Recommend

  • Atif
    Apr 7, 2017 - 11:07AM

    @abreez:
    couldn’t agree more Recommend

  • Amir
    Apr 7, 2017 - 1:15PM

    This where the Muslim nations / OIC has drastically failed. Sadly such conflicts have become a fight amongst KSA and Iran, Shia vs, Sunni.

    And our ex-militar head needs to ensure once he takes charge to unite all faction and bring peace and stability in such countries.

    Failure in this is why America and Russia will keep intervening for their own interest. And we should not be blaming them for such strikes on Syria or anywhere else, but the OIC.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Apr 7, 2017 - 1:23PM

    If you are the worlds leading weapons producer, there is nothing like a war especially miles away from home, to boost ones economy…….and make rich industry even richer.Recommend

  • Bunny Rabbit
    Apr 7, 2017 - 1:40PM

    Dear Uncle Sam please withdraw immediatly from all your ‘ friends ‘ or ‘allies ‘ . half the worlds problems will be solved on its own. Recommend

  • cautious
    Apr 7, 2017 - 2:01PM

    @Ibne Adam:

    Syria had used chemical weapons
    before. No, military strike is not the
    answer. Assad must be brought to
    justice for war crimes, period.

    Sounds great – but so long as Russia and China keep protecting this mass murderer the UN/diplomacy route isn’t going to work. Recommend

  • MAT
    Apr 7, 2017 - 2:50PM

    The US bombed Syria yesterday because of civilian deaths but refuses to accept Syrian refugees!! These refugees were created by the West’s intervention in that once beautiful country. First they bomb you and steal your resources and then they champion human rights.
    Please don’t delude yourself that any country acts out of humanitarian concerns. Recommend

  • Fifi
    Apr 7, 2017 - 2:59PM

    The last time Assad was accused, it came out that somebody else was the culprit and US provided those chemical bombs. UN report details all the facts. Are we sure this time that the culprit is [email protected] Adam: Recommend

  • AK
    Apr 7, 2017 - 2:59PM

    It was not very long ago that Syrian chemical stockpile was destroyed by the US, Syria and Russia and the UN under international supervision. How did Syria get chemical weapons again under such a tight regulation regime?

    This attack bears all the hallmark of false flag operation. The world has not forgotten the “weapons of mass destruction” pretext used for attacking IRAQ and other such ruses for Libya and Afghanistan.

    Looks like some big powers are operating from a twilight zone.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Apr 7, 2017 - 3:12PM

    Russian response is most likely to be the supply of anti missile batteries to the Syrian air force. Vlamericans. The lines are being drawn for the particiants in the 3rd ww scenario.

    Rex Minor Recommend

  • Alex Norman
    Apr 7, 2017 - 4:08PM

    I never understood the logic that death by gas is horrific, but death by depleted Uranium and cluster bomb is not. Just couple of months back Saudi Arabia Killed over 200 people including women and children who were attending a funeral. Where was the U.S or the world outrage at that time. Selective accountability is not acceptable.

    Unnecessary death by any means is not acceptable. This madness should stop.Recommend

  • Alex Norman
    Apr 7, 2017 - 4:10PM

    @Zaidi Iqbal Hadi:

    Where was your moral, when the Saudi’s slaughtered over 200 people including women and children in Yemen couple of months back. Selective accountability is not acceptable. This madness in the Middle East, which was started by Saudi Arabia should be stopped by any means. Recommend

  • Umar Khan
    Apr 7, 2017 - 4:22PM

    Salute to President Trump !Recommend

  • Ghulam Habid
    Apr 7, 2017 - 5:30PM

    Evidence points finger at the Syrian Government for using chemical weapons against the resistance in Syria.
    For example, Turkey’s government said Thursday that initial findings suggest it was sarin nerve agent — which is banned by international convention and considered a war crime.
    Victims of the Syrian attack were treated in nearby medical facilities in Turkey.
    For another evidence, witnesses in Khan Sheikhoun, a town in the Idlib province, say the chemicals were dropped on them from the air.
    With Russia complicit on not delivering on its undertaking to clear all chemical weapons from Syria, the United States had to act unilaterally. Recommend

  • Ibne Adam
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:02PM

    @Alex Norman:
    “This madness” was started by Assad in killing his own people who opposed him.Recommend

  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:23PM

    Assad is a monster who kills his own countrymen. He gassed children in a brutal chemical attack. Thank you Trump for punishing this monster. Recommend

  • Ghulam Habid
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:23PM

    Diplomacy coupled with military preparedness and a sustained military response is the need of the hour to stop the bloodshed in Syria.Recommend

  • Alex Norman
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:28PM

    @Ibne Adam:
    The opposition was fully financed by the Saudi’s. Saudi’s said that there should be democracy in Syria and there should be an election. When was the last time Saudi had an election. Saudi’s are the Fitna, this issue will not be resolved unless the Saud and the Gulf monarchies are replaced by genuinely elected leaders. Recommend

  • FAZ
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:37PM

    @Alex Norman:
    Why mention only KSA? Accountability for who and by who? Who would be accountable for the actions US has taken that resulted in death of so many around the world in the past 50 years? Who will ask as to why military action was taken against Iraq on poor intelligence basis? Who will ask what happened to those innocents that have died in drone strikes? And by the way, KSA is a key US ally. Weapons it used in the bombing you mentioned were supplied by UK and US. Same case is with Israel, when it bombs schools, kills children and US vetos a useless piece of paper called the UN resolution..Recommend

  • So
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:39PM

    So, is the US really serious and determined for a sustained effort to end the bloodshed in Syria? How can the international community bring Assad to justice? A drone attack to take Assad out would not serve the purpose of justice as he must be tried for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.Recommend

  • Ibne Adam
    Apr 7, 2017 - 6:50PM

    @Alex Norman:
    The Saudis did well to finance resistance against the despot Assad. He is the greatest fitna on earth after Hitler and Polpot. If Assad continues, he might out outdo the worst killers in History.Recommend

  • eddied
    Apr 7, 2017 - 7:00PM

    @MAT: what an ignorant person you are?…dont you understand that the refugee crisis in Europe was caused by Basher Al Assad who has murdered over 300 thousand of his own people and caused millions to leave their homes?…wake up to reality…Recommend

  • Analysis
    Apr 7, 2017 - 7:19PM

    Replace all dictators in the Arab world and bring on democratically elected governments.. Bring killers to justice.Recommend

  • Alex Norman
    Apr 7, 2017 - 8:51PM

    @Ibne Adam:
    What is the difference between King Salman and Bashar Asad. They both are killing their own people. Please try to take out a procession against King Salman,, I can bet you will not live to tell the story. All these Arab despot should be banished and replaced by elected officials, not the kind of officials who get 99 % votes. You know what I mean. Recommend

  • Asghar
    Apr 7, 2017 - 9:22PM

    Interesting how soo many people commenting here have soo easily accepted the west’s “evidence” against the syrian govt. And apparently everyone knows for sure that Assad has used chemical weapons. Thumbs Up
    Assad might be killing his own people, but It would be irresponsible to comment about either side without knowing the real truth which contrary to everyone’s belief is not what CNN, BBC or the US govt tell us.Recommend

  • Ibne Adam
    Apr 7, 2017 - 10:19PM

    @Alex Norman:
    Okay, both King Salman and Assad are killers. But the comparison is poor and the contrast is conspicuous. The magnitude of Assad’s murders is incomparable. Please admit.
    Though, I would still agree that all dictators, including Arab despots, must be replaced by elected leaders.
    Cheers.Recommend

  • Silly
    Apr 7, 2017 - 11:05PM

    @Asghar:
    “Assad might be killing his own people…” What do you mean by might be? He is killing his people on a very large scale. And, since he has killed over 300,000 brutally, what and who is going to stop him from using chemical weapons. Get a life.Recommend

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