President Donald Trump announced on Friday he ordered "precision" airstrikes on the Syrian regime in response to a chemical weapon attack last weekend.
"I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator of Bashar al-Assad," Trump said from the White House Diplomatic Room.
The president also directed remarks at Syria’s allies, Russia and Iran.
“What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?” he asked.
He added that Russia guaranteed it would dispose of Syria’s chemical weapons and the recent attack is a “failure” of Russia to keep that promise.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 14, 2018
Shortly after making this announcement, loud explosions lit up skies over the Syrian capital. The strikes targeted chemical weapons research and storage facilities in Damascus. The Trump administration said it went to great lengths to prevent civilian casualties.
Trump said the strikes were in coordination with France and the United Kingdom and that the three nations had "marshaled their righteous power."
British Prime Minister Theresa May said the West had tried “every possible” diplomatic means to stop Assad from using chemical weapons. “But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted” by Syria and Russia, she added.
“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” May said. “This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change.
Syrian media reported that Syrian air defenses have responded to the attack.
The president asked the nation to "pray for our noble warriors" as he concluded his remarks. He said he is also praying for the Middle East and United States.
The allied operation comes a year after the U.S. missile strike meant to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons.
Trump said the U.S. is prepared to sustain pressure on Assad until he ends the use of chemical weapons. He also assured the nation he did not want to leave the U.S. in Syria indefinitely.
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances,” he said. “As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home.”
In a press briefing at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary James Mattis said the targets were chosen to damage the Assad regime’s capability to build and deploy more chemical weapons and to minimize the possibility of civilian casualties.
Mattis said he’s “confident” the regime used chlorine against its people and suspects sarin might also have been deployed.
“I am confident the Syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on its people,” Mattis said.
The strikes are meant to send a clear message to Assad and “his murderous lieutenants” that they should not perpetrate any more chemical weapons attacks “for which they will be held accountable,” Mattis said. He also said Friday’s strikes are a “one-time” event unless the Assad regime continues to use chemical weapons.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listed three targets in Damascus and Homs where chemical weapons are being developed and stored.
He also said the Russians were not informed of the attacks beforehand.
At this time there are no reports of American losses.