!”KNOW BETTER WITH MESOP NEWS!” : US Strikes Assad Regime for 1st Time, Hits Chemical Weapons / DETAILED REPORT
April 07 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – UPDATE 0715 GMT: The Syrian military has issued a statement acknowledging six killed and “extensive” damage at the Shayrat airbase.
A spokesman said the US strikes would “only encourage terrorists to use chemical weapons at will” whenever they are on the defensive.
UPDATE 0630 GMT: Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov has now condemned the US strikes as “an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of the norms of international law, and under a trumped-up pretext at that”.
Moscow gave no indication of its response.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Tehran “roundly condemns any unilateral military action and the missile attacks against al-Shayrat Airbase in Syria by American warships.”
However, as with a statement on Wednesday, Iran did not deny that the Assad regime may have carried out Tuesday’s chemical attack that triggered the US strikes.
Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said, “The Islamic Republic, as the biggest victim of chemical weapons in modern history, condemns any application of such weapons, regardless of the perpetrators and victims.”
The US has fired 59 missiles on an airbase from which the Assad regime launched its chemical weapons attack in northwest Syria this week.
Two American destroyed launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase in Homs Province (see map). On Tuesday, a warplane — reportedly a Russian-made Su-22 — fired an air-to-surface missile, apparently filled with a hybrid of a nerve agent and chlorine, that killed more than 100 people and wounded at least 546.
The attack, launched at 3:40 am local time, is the first deliberate strike by American personnel on an Assad regime position in Syria’s six-year conflict.
The pro-Assad outlet Al Masdar said airfields, an aircraft hangar, and fuel tankers were struck. Destruction of the tankers caused several explosions and a large fire”. The site said at least 15 fighter jets were damaged or destroyed, and four people killed.
A pro-regime activist, returning from the airbase, said the “Air Defence Brigade [has been] badly mauled” and the commander killed.
President Donald Trump, who had earlier met Chinese leader Xi Jinping at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, said:
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security of the United States 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 UN Security Council. Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically.
The attack is a dramatic shift in the Trump Administration’s policy. Only last week, the White House and high-level officials — reversing the public line held since August 2011 — said they now accepted that President Assad could stay in power. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson even mimicked Assad’s oft-repeated words in saying that “the decision must be left to the Syrian people”.
However, Tuesday’s chemical attacks opened the space for the National Security and Pentagon, who favored maintenance of a harder line with the regime, to press for the implementation of long-standing plans for strikes. Trump said on Wednesday at a press conference that his attitude towards Assad had been changed by the chemical attack.
Hours before the US airstrikes, US officials informed media outlets that American radar and infrared systems had tracked the regime warplane which fired the missile with chemicals on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province. At the same time, they let it be known that Trump had asked Defense Secretary James Mattis for recommendations of action.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters in Florida that Trump had concluded, after seeing the outcome of the chemical attack, that the US could no longer “turn away, turn a blind eye”: “The more we fail to respond to the use of these weapons, the more we begin to normalize their use.”
National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said of the “decision meeting”, held before Trump wet China’s Xi, that “it was important during the president’s deliberations” to consider the risk of action against the “risk of this continued, egregious, inhumane attacks on innocent civilians with chemical weapons”.
A military official said the attack was at the more limited end of the options presented by Defense Secretary Mattis to Trump on Thursday. He said it is to send a signal to Assad about the US intention to respond with force if the regime continues to use chemical weapons.
McMaster said the US had tried avoid hitting a facility at the Shayrat base believed to have more sarin nerve agent.
US: Russia Notified in Advance
The US said it informed Russia, an essential ally of the Assad regime, of the overnight airstrikes before they were carried out. However, Moscow’s permission was not sought, officials said, and Trump had not contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin.
They added that no Russia aircraft were at the Shayrat base.
The Kremlin and Russian ministries have not yet responded publicly to developments.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said:
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. Military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.
Secretary of State Tillerson is due in Moscow on Tuesday.
There has been no comment from the Assad regime, and the English-language site of Syrian State news agency SANA has posted no information. However, the pro-Assad site Al Masdar asserts, “Capitalizing on the U.S. missile strikes, the Islamic State stormed the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) checkpoints near the strategic town of Al-Furqalas” in Homs Province.