President Trump Orders Cruise Missile Strike Against Syria

Syria Strike

WASHINGTON -- "No child of God should ever suffer" the horror of the chemical weapons attack Syria launched on its own people, President Trump said Thursday, as he announced a cruise missile strike against Syria.

President Trump ordered a cruise missile strike against Syria early Friday local time in retaliation for the chemical weapons attack that killed 86 people on Tuesday, according to the Pentagon.

The attack, the first conventional assault on another country ordered by Trump, comes a day after he declared that the chemical weapons assault had “crossed many, many lines,” including causing the deaths of 27 children.

From his resort in Palm Beach, Fla., Trump said Syrian President Bashar Assad "launched a horrible chemical attack on innocent civilians using a deadly nerve agent. Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

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"Tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the Untied States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said.

Years of previous attempts to change Assad's behavior had failed, Trump said.

The missiles, fired from a U.S. Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea, struck multiple sites, including the airfield where Syria based the warplanes used in the chemical attack, a Defense official said.

The attack essentially follows the plan that the Pentagon had set in September 2013, according to a senior Defense official not authorized to speak publicly about the operation. That plan was devised after President Barack Obama had set a “red line” on the use of chemical weapons.

Assad had used the weapons that killed 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not order an attack. Instead, Assadagreed to turnover his stockpiles of chemical weapons, a pledge he obviously reneged on in light of Tuesday’s use of what experts believe was sarin gas on civilians.

In 2013, military planners had planned to use land-attack cruise missiles launched from Navy destroyers cruising off shore from Syria. For weeks, the Navy had four destroyers floating off shore, waiting for the order to strike that never came.

Using ships negates the need to seek permission from countries where U.S. warplanes are based. Land-attack Tomahawk missiles can travel 1,500 miles to strike their target and carry a warhead with 1,000 pounds of conventional explosives.

Among the options that Pentagon planners had developed for Trump: the airfield, military command-and-control centers, air defense systems and troops.

Any attack puts at risk the hundreds of U.S. special operations troops in eastern Syria who are advising local ground forces in their fight against the Islamic State, or ISIS. The concern, according to the official, is that Assadcould order a counter strike, targeting the Americans. There is also the risk that the attack could kill Russian troops who have been supporting the Assad regime.

The Pentagon, which has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria since 2014, can provide extra air patrols to protect those troops. But they still would be vulnerable to attacks by surface-to-surface missiles fired by Syrian forces.

Deadly chemical attack

The strike followed an attack on a rebel-held city in northern Syria with apparent chemical weapons. Autopsies on three Syrians who died after being brought to Turkey for treatment suggest the banned nerve agent sarin was used in the attack, the Turkish Health Ministry said.

Turkey, which also is involved in the fighting, has long pushed for Assad's ouster.

Russia said the deaths were caused by a Syrian strike on a terrorist chemical lab, but the United States, other nations and human rights groups rejected that claim as baseless.

While Trump has been criticized for cozying up to Russia, officials in that country warned him against military strikes.

"We have to think about negative consequences, negative consequences, and all the responsibility if military action occurred will be on shoulders of those who initiated such doubtful and tragic enterprise," said Vladimir Safronkov, Russia's deputy envoy to the United Nations, speaking with reporters at the U.N.

Asked what those consequences might be, the Russian diplomat cited ongoing problems in Iraq and Libya.

Trump had long shared that opinion. He had previously urged the United States to support Assad against rebel groups fighting him, many of which are aligned with al-Qaeda. In 2013, he criticized Obama for contemplating strikes without getting congressional approval. But the images of the dead children spurred an about-face.

“I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity, and he’s there, and I guess he’s running things, so I guess something should happen," Trump said Thursday afternoon.

"What Assad did is terrible," Trump added. "What happened in Syria is truly one of the egregious crimes and it shouldn’t have happened. And it shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Now, in the early morning darkness in Syria, Trump has responded with force.

The U.S. launched cruise missiles against Syria Friday, a day after President Trump said a chemical weapons attack that killed 86, “crossed many, many” lines.

Here’s what we know so far:

Why did the U.S. attack? 

Back in 2013, President Obama set a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad. The regime proceeded to use the weapons to kill 1,400 civilians, but Obama did not attack — a move Trump and other Republicans widely criticized as making America look weak.

In the wake of that episode, Assad agreed to turn over his stockpile of chemical weapons. This week's chemical attack clearly violated that pledge. Trump called the attack — which killed at least 86 people, 27 of them children —  "a disgrace to humanity" and "truly one of the egregious crimes."

"The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again," Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

What Trump says:

"It is in the vital national security interest of the United states to prevent and deter the use of deadly chemical weapons," Trump said from his Mar-a-Lago retreat after the strikes were carried out. "Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered at this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror."

How did the U.S. attack?

The cruise missiles were fired from a U.S. Navy vessel in the Mediterranean Sea. The missiles hit multiple targets, including the airfield which serves as the base for the warplanes suspected of carrying out the chemical attack.

The plan for the attack followed one devised in 2013 after Obama set his "red line," a senior defense official told USA TODAY.

Has the U.S. struck Syria before? 

The U.S. has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since 2014, but this was the first strike against the Syrian regime. This also marked the first conventional assault on another country ordered by Trump.

Why did the U.S. attack from ships? 

Tomahawk missiles can travel 1,500 miles to strike their target. So, the U.S. Navy was able to launch the attack from the Mediterranean Sea, avoiding the need to get permission from any host country to launch the strikes.

What are the risks of attacking the regime? 

One potential concern is the safety of  U.S. special operations troops in eastern Syria who are advising local ground forces in their fight against the Islamic State. One official told USA TODAY there are fears Assad could counter by targeting the U.S. troops.

One reason the U.S. chose limited strikes against Assad, is that a more sustained campaign would risk the total collapse of the regime. That risks a power vacuum that could allow ISIS or other extremists to seize power.

How will Russia and Iran respond? 

Another concern is how Russia and Iran might respond since both countries have boots on the ground in Syria supporting the regime. Iranian militias support Assad and Russia's intervention turned the tide of the six-year-old civil war in Assad's favor. The U.S. military notified Russia of the strike before it was launched.

Copyright 2017 WFMY


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