U.S. Military Strikes Syria

President Trump authorizes missile strike on Syrian airbase

Apr 07, 2017 | By Lina Mai with TIME reporting
JIM WATSON—AFP/GETTY IMAGSE

President Donald Trump delivers a statement about Syria on April 6 from the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida. Trump condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces for using deadly chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week. In response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack, Trump ordered the U.S. military to strike a Syrian airbase.

The United States fired 59 missiles at a Syrian airfield on Thursday. The action was taken in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. The Trump administration and its allies blamed the chemical attack on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s forces. At least 72 people, including children, were killed in that attack.

The missile attack is the first direct assault by the U.S. against Assad’s regime. American forces launched the Tomahawk missiles from two Navy ships positioned in the Mediterranean Sea. The missiles targeted the Shayrat airfield in western Syria. U.S. intelligence determined that aircraft from the airfield conducted the chemical attack, according to a statement by Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis.

Shortly after the U.S. strike on Syria, President Donald Trump spoke out against Assad. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of hopeless men, women, and children,” Trump told reporters. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria,” he added.

What are chemical weapons?

The aftermath of the U.S missile attack on the Sharat airfield in western Syria on April 7. The U.S. military fired 59 missiles at the airfield. It is believed to be the location from which Syrian forces conducted a chemical weapons attack against civilians on April 4.
MIKHAIL VOSKRESENSKIY—SPUTNIK/AP
The aftermath of the U.S missile attack on the Sharat airfield in western Syria on April 7. The U.S. military fired 59 missiles at the airfield. It is believed to be the location from which Syrian forces conducted a chemical weapons attack against civilians on April 4.

Chemical weapons are toxic chemicals contained in a delivery system, such as a bomb. They cause death and severe injury. The use of such weapons has been banned since 1925 by an international agreement called the Geneva Protocol. Despite that, chemical weapons have continued to be a global threat. The United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found Syrian government forces responsible for three chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

The World Health Organization said that victims in this week’s chemical attack in Syria displayed symptoms of exposure to sarin, a banned chemical weapon. The use of chemical weapons is a violation of international humanitarian law as well as a war crime, according to a statement by Lisa Grande. She is the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq. “There is never justification — none whatsoever — for the use of chemical weapons,” she added.

Why is there a war in Syria?

The war in Syria began six years ago as a peaceful uprising against President Assad. Assad responded to protestors with deadly force. The violence escalated, and opposition leaders formed rebel groups to fight Assad’s forces. In addition, groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS have taken advantage of Syria’s instability and seized control of large portions of the country.

How has the world responded to the U.S. Strike on Syria?

A civil war has been raging through Syria for six years, leaving over 300,000 people dead. The U.S. has blamed Syrian government forces for launching a chemical weapons attack earlier this week against civilians in Idlib province.
LONELY PLANET IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
A civil war has been raging through Syria for six years, leaving over 300,000 people dead. The U.S. has blamed Syrian government forces for launching a chemical weapons attack earlier this week against civilians in Idlib province.

Most of the international community, including France, Germany, Australia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Great Britain, has expressed their support for the U.S. assault on Syria. British Prime Minister Theresa May's office said the airstrike was “an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks,” according to the Associated Press.

Russia and Iran, however, condemned the strike. Both nations have been strong supporters of Assad. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he does not believe that Syria has chemical weapons, according to a statement by Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov. “Putin views the U.S. strike on Syria as aggression against a sovereign [independent] state in violation of the norms of international law,” said Peskov. “Washington's step will inflict major damage on U.S.-Russia ties.”

Assad has denied that the Syrian government was responsible for this week’s chemical attack. His office released a statement calling the U.S. missile strike “reckless,” “shortsighted,” and “irresponsible.”

What happens next?

President Trump said on Thursday night that the U.S. air strikes on Syria were “in the vital national security interest of the United states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

Meanwhile, Peskov, the Russian spokesman, said the U.S. is in violation of international law. The 15 member nations of the U.N. Security Council met this afternoon to discuss the strike. The U.S. and the Russian Federation are among the five permanent member nations of the Security Council.