U.S. Launches Missile Strikes Against Syria
Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor
On Tuesday, April 4, the world recoiled in horror as video surfaced out of the Idlib Province in Northern Syria, an area controlled by rebel forces opposed to Bashar al-Assad, suggesting the use of a lethal nerve agent in the area. Throughout the day, more images of men, women, and vulnerable children struggling to breathe circulated across social media and there were reports that subsequent air strikes had targeted hospitals trying to care for the desperate victims. A day later, President Donald Trump said that the use of a chemical weapon against civilians “crossed many, many lines.”
As military intelligence officials around the world confirmed that Assad’s forces were responsible for the strike that is estimated to have killed 70 people, President Trump tasked Defense Secretary Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster with preparing military options for him to pursue. This evening, the world learned of the president’s decision - 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles were launched from two destroyers to strike Syria’s Shayrat airfield, where U.S. intelligence officials determined Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack originated.
Shayrat is not a particularly large airfield, one of six under Assad’s control, but has hosted fighters from Hezbollah, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Russia. According to reports, the administration informed Russia of their decision to strike the base and carried out a successful first strike while the president dined with Chinese leader Xi Jinping at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. From the resort, Trump addressed the press, stressing his personal response to the images of dying children and declared, “it is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons.” A statement from the Pentagon similarly emphasized the “proportional response,” targeting “aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radar” equipment. “Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield,” according to the Pentagon.
Since this is Trump’s first major military operation as president, many consider it a key test of the new administration and some think it marks a drastic departure from the response of his predecessor. The president himself noted, “years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was quick to dispel the assertion that the strikes represent a new strategy towards Syria and Russia. While he lamented, “the Russians have to be either complicit or incompetent...Russia has failed to deliver on their commitment” to secure Assad’s chemical weapons, he did not pledge to remove Assad or publicly condemn Vladimir Putin for standing by their ally. Perhaps that will come next week when Tillerson visits Moscow.
Almost all members of Congress included in their response a line about working with them as the military effort continues or a demand for proper legal authority. However, it is not clear the Trump Administration plans to escalate further against Assad for the time being. For now, the missiles have struck their target. What comes next is anyone’s guess. Still, one thing is clear: if anyone was reluctant to launch an attack on Syria, it was Trump, but he wasn’t lying when he said that this attack had changed his view of Assad and the Syrian civil war.
President Trump made a decisive call, one that will reverberate across the globe, from Damascus to Pyongyang, in Beijing and Moscow. Under this president, the U.S. will act when necessary, alone if necessary, to defend its interests and the interests of the civilized world. If dictators insist on targeting civilian populations, they can expect an appropriate military response.
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