U.S. strike is a clear signal to Syria, Russia and Iran

Lula Sharp
April 15, 2018

Trump's U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, told the session that the president has made it clear that if Assad uses poison gas again, "the United States is locked and loaded".

"We thank the Croatian government for supporting the actions of the U.S, U.K and France against the use of chemical weapons", U.S. Ambassador W. Robert Kohorst said in a statement.

Trump said the USA would maintain pressure on Syria until the Assad regime suspends use of chemical weapons. "Russia, however, can not claim to be a responsible member of the worldwide community while failing to condemn the use of chemical weapons and failing to take any action to prevent their use". The missile strikes have drawn the ire of chief Syrian government allies, Russian Federation and Iran.

Assad denies he has used chemical weapons, and the Trump administration has yet to present hard evidence of what it says precipitated the allied missiles attack: a chlorine gas attack on civilians in Douma on April 7. Russian officials had said US and Russian military staffs remained in contact regarding Syria, even as Russian media carried stories in recent days about the potential outbreak of "World War III" as a effect of a USA airstrike against Assad. "We don't want to get into a fight with them, they don't want to get in a fight with us", he said. An official there said the facility was used by the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and helped develop cancer drugs. Nor did they target intelligence capabilities, logistics sites, or other enablers of Syrian military chemical weapons efforts.

"That will depend on Mr. Assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future", Mattis said.

The Russian military claimed Syrian air defense systems had intercepted 71 Western missiles, though the Pentagon flatly dismissed the claim and said all missiles hit their targets.

The Security Council held an emergency meeting earlier at the request of Russian Federation, which failed in a bid to condemn the air strikes.

Coffey said "it's important" for the global community to participate in a strike "this time around", adding that it would fit into Trump's message of "burden-sharing" on the worldwide stage.

US defense officials said Friday they did not consult their Russian counterparts about the strikes, or notify them in advance, though they did use existing lines of communication to de-conflict the airspace to prevent any accidental incidents between USA and Russian planes. A senior administration official told reporters Saturday that while there was more publicly available evidence pointing to the use of chlorine, the US has "significant information that also points to sarin use".

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He accused the United States, Britain and France of being "imperialist" empires that "consider themselves superior to the rest of the world".

The strikes "will significantly impact the Syrian regime's ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future", said Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the USA military's Joint Staff, though he noted a "residual" element remained.

The strikes, a joint operation between the USA, United Kingdom and France, targeted three locations associated with the production and storage of chemical weapons: a scientific research center; a storage center for sarin and its precursor components; and a chemical weapons storage facility and command post, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia quoted President Vladimir Putin and said that in conducting the strikes, the US, United Kingdom and France had acted "without a mandate from the UN Security Council and in violation of the UN charter and the norms of worldwide law".

For many in Syrian opposition, and for those who suffered the chemical attack one week earlier, the strikes were welcomed, but not enough.

"I'm not going to say that they're going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future, but I suspect that they'll think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night", the lieutenant general said.

At the Pentagon, the director of the Joint Staff, Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, said the more than 100 missile strikes delivered a blow late Friday to the "heart" of Syria's chemical weapons network. And are we to believe that the chemical weapons that were thought to have been destroyed once and for all years ago are now, at last, gone for good?

Steve Herman at the White House; Katherine Gypson and Aru Pande in Washington.

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