US President Donald Trump’s speech on the Syria strikes demonstrated the competing strands of his “America First” foreign policy.
Just two weeks ago, Trump said it was time to get troops out of Syria to let regional powers fix the morass there. But on Friday, he promised a sustained military campaign to prevent President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons. At the same time, he warned against the illusion that American action could mend a broken region, exemplifying a common, ambivalent thread between his administration and that of Obama, a predecessor who he disdains
The Syrian Armed Forces said in a statement the US, France and the UK “fired 110 missiles targeting Syria on Saturday at 3:55 a.m. local time.”
Syrian defense systems “intercepted most of the missiles but some hit targets including the Research Center in Barzeh.”
The statement added that action against the Syrian regime “will not discourage our armed forces and supporting forces from continuing to crush the remnants of terrorist groups across Syria.”
Commenting on the overnight strikes on targets in Syria, an Israeli official said “last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line.”
“Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions, including those of Iran, that put its territory, its forces and its leadership at risk,” the official said.
Syria and Russia blamed Israel for striking an air base in Syria last week, in which a number of people were killed or injured. Israel has previously carried out multiple military operations in Syria.
Australia Defense Minister Marise Payne has issued a statement in support of strikes against the Syrian regime by the US, UK and France.
“Australia supports these strikes, which demonstrate a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response. They send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated,” she said.
“The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible. The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity.”
Payne called for the UN Security Council to approve an independent investigation of the alleged chemical weapons attack, which the US has blamed on the Syrian regime but both Damascus and Moscow said was fabricated by rebels and their sympathizers.
I have been in Syria 20 times including with the Russian military and on 18 Syrian government visas.
The Syrian government will see this as a major victory. Three facilities were targeted but their air defenses appear to have managed to take out at least some of the missiles that were fired toward them and the Syrian military’s capabilities have in no way been depleted.
Before the strikes there was grave concern that the US might conduct a wider-ranging air campaign which could endanger the Syrian military and perhaps even influence the civil war, which government forces have been winning since the Russians entered the scene.
It seems these strikes were more symbolic than anything else.
The Russian news agency RIA added “over 100 cruise missiles and air to ground missiles were launched by the air and sea missile carriers of USA, France and the UK, aimed at military and civilian objects of the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported government forces “confronted on Saturday a tripartite aggression launched by the US, France and Britain on a number of sites in the surroundings of Damascus and Homs.”
Targets included a research center in Barzeh and warehouses for the Syrian army in Homs, SANA said.
Air defenses over Homs “intercepted several missiles and downed them,” it added.
“The missiles that targeted a military site in Homs have been intercepted to change their track and cause the injury of three civilians.”
A building containing scientific labs and centers in Barzeh was destroyed, the report added.
Separately, Russian state-run outlet Sputnik said the majority of missiles launched against Syria were intercepted by air defenses.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Sputnik said, Syria repelled the Western attack using air defense systems made in the Soviet Union, including the S-125, BUK, and S-200.
France has been very forward-leaning in advocating a strike on Syria after the alleged chemical weapons attacks a week ago.
On Friday, Paris took the unusual action of putting together a video, seen on government websites and Twitter accounts, which described the need for action and said that “France would shoulder its responsibility.”
French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian said joining in the attack was “legitimate, proportional and targeted” and justified the action without UN Security Council approval on the basis that diplomatic efforts in the UN to stop Syria from using chemical weapons were repeatedly blocked by the Russians, and that Syria had agreed in 2013 under Resolution 2118 to destroy chemical weapons stocks.
France employed cruise missiles fired from a frigate in the the eastern Mediterranean and stand off cruise missiles fired from Rafale aircraft based in France which had to be refueled numerous times in flight to accomplish the long mission.
Their stand off missiles have a range of 250 kilometers (155 miles) which kept them out of Syrian airspace when they fired.
Dozens of men, women and children were massacred using chemical weapons in Douma on Saturday, 7 April.
The red line has been crossed.
I have therefore ordered the French armed forces to intervene.http://www.elysee.fr/communiques-de-presse/article/press-statement-by-the-president-of-the-french-republic-on-the-intervention-of-the-french-armed-forces-in-response-to-the-use-of-chemical-weapons-in-syria/ …
At this time, pro-regime or Russian forces in Syria are showing no signs of retaliation against US and coalition troops following the strikes, according an official with the US-led coalition fighting ISIS in Syria.
There are approximately 2,000 US troops currently inside Syria.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry strongly condemned the overnight airstrikes in Syria, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) said Saturday.
“The attack is the blatant violation of international laws, as well as ignoring the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.
Speaking at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the country had “acted in accordance with our words, in accordance with our responsibility and in coordination with our allies.”
“The regime of Mr Assad deliberately decided to break the taboo of the 20th century, which is the use of chemical weapons,” Le Drian said in a statement on behalf of French President Emmanuel Macron.
“(Assad) hasn’t hesitated to break international law.”
He added France had three imperatives going forward: The dismantling of the Syrian chemical weapons program, a ceasefire across Syria, and a crisis exit plan.
At 3 a.m. Paris time, French forces “in close coordination with US and British troops” conducted an operation in Syria, said French Defense Minister Florence Parly.
“On a practical level, this operation required air and naval means, multi-mission frigates accompanied by support ships were deployed in the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time an air raid left at night from multiple air bases in France,” she said.
“These different means fired… cruise missiles at the chosen targets in close coordination with our British and American partners.”
She added that France does “not seek confrontation, and we refuse any possibility of military escalation.”
“We had ensured that the Russians were warned beforehand,” Parly said.
The airstrikes did not hit Russia’s air and naval bases, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday, state news agency TASS reported.
According to TASS, the statement said that “none of the launched missiles entered the zone of responsibility of Russian Federation air defense units, protecting facilities in Tartus (naval base) and Hmeymim (air base).
One year ago the US launched its first military assault against the Syrian regime, a move some thought would be a game-changer in that country’s gruesome civil war.
On President Trump’s orders, US warships pummeled a government airbase with missiles on April 6, 2017, a day after more than 80 Syrians died in a chemical attack.
Trump said he took action in response because that chemical attack “crossed a lot of lines for me.”
Here’s how the attack unfolded:
— US warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government airbase that was home to the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks.
— The strike took place at 8:40 p.m. ET (3:40 a.m. local time), when there would have been minimal activity at the base.
— Six people were killed in the retaliatory US airstrike, which US Secretary of Defense James Mattis claimed last year destroyed about 20% of the Syrian government’s operational aircraft.
— It targeted aircraft, aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and “the things that make the airfield operate,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters.
It was the first direct military action taken by the US against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country’s seven-year civil war.
Three civilians were injured by airstrikes in the city of Homs, according to Syria State TV.
“Several missiles were intercepted and derailed, thus they wounded civilians “Syria state TV said.