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Middle East

07 Apr 2017

Trump strikes Syria,a prelude to intervention

Could this morning’s attack on an air force base in Syria be a prelude to a larger United States intervention in the country? Donald Trump authorized a hit against Assad’s forces, ordering the first direct US military action since he became president. The attack is considered a retaliation against the Syrian Arab Army, who allegedly used chemical weapons targeting a rebel village.

Donald Trump delivered a statement from his country club in Florida in which he accused Syrian president, Bashar Al-Assad for attacking innocent civilians, and held him responsible for the deaths of dozens of men, women and children. Trump said that “tonight I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital security interest of the US to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the United Nations (UN) Security Council.”

Two US Navy destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles from the Eastern Mediterranean that hit the Al-Shayrat airfield, near Homs. The results of this devastating attack, that costed the least $30mn, were the death of 4 soldiers and the complete destruction of the base according to Pentagon officials. Captain Jeff Davis, a spokesperson for the Pentagon, said that “the base was used to store chemical weapons used by the regime until 2013, when a deal was struck between the US and Russia to remove the arsenal. It was used to deliver the chemical weapons dropped on the Khan Sheikhun Village on Tuesday. Targets were chosen carefully, so we wouldn’t hit these stored weapons.”

Davis revealed that Russia was informed, before the strikes took place, in order to avoid potential Russian casualties in the area. The spokesperson said that the Pentagon used a line of communications which was established to prevent accidental clashes between Russian and US forces, which are active in Syria. Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin’s spokesman, told reporters that “President Putin regards the US attacks on Syria as an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that. President Putin also sees the attacks on Syria, by the US, as an attempt to divert the international community’s attention from the numerous casualties among civilians in Northern Iraq.”

On Friday morning, the Russian Foreign Ministry suspended the agreement that ensured flight safety during operations in Syria. The statement said: “The Russian side suspends the Memorandum on preventing incidents and ensuring flight safety, during operations, signed with the US. We urge the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the current situation.” Ibrahim Kalin, Tayip Erdogan’s spokesman, said that Turkey sees the attack as “a positive response to Assad’s war crimes.” Kalin expressed Turkey’s opinion on the need of enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria with no further delay. Turkey has been insisting on this since the beginning of the civil war, as it believes that the Syrian air force inflicts heavy casualties on the rebels.

Only few days ago, the Trump administration had noted that it didn’t see Assad’s removal from power as a priority in Middle East. Trump, during his election campaign, had accused Hillary Clinton for her willingness to strike Syrian regime targets. Ben Cardin, a senior Democrat senator said that he supports the strike on the airbase but said that “any future military operation will need to be done in consultation with the Congress.”