US, France and England attack Syria to stop chemical weapons

Susan Walsh  AP

Susan Walsh AP

The White House and Pentagon are insisting the airstrikes the US carried out with its allies overnight differ from the strikes the USA conducted last April, after a different chemical weapons attack attributed to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad's regime.

Trump announced the airstrikes Friday night to attack Syria's chemical weapons program.

The White House and Pentagon, previous year and now, have not clearly outlined the US mission and strategy in Syria, as many reporters have pointed out, then and now.

More than 100 missiles struck in response to a suspected deadly chemical attack on the town of Douma last week. Here are a few key distinctions.

The US, UK, and France carried out a joint operation on Friday night targeting three research facilities in Syria thought to have been involved in the production of chemical weapons.

The allies successfully hit all three of their targets, the Pentagon said, deploying 105 missiles.

This year, the US and her allies locked in on three targets, all believed to be associated with the regime's chemical weapons program, compared with just one target, an airbase, last year. But with the latest strikes, US forces may see an escalation in the conflict.

Trump ordered a similar strike last April. Defence secretary Gavin Wiliamson told BBC Radio 4: "Our service personnel have played an important role in terms of degrading the ability of the Syrian regime to use chemical weapons in the future, but also it sends a clear message to the Syrian regime that they can not continue to use chemical weapons with impunity". "They were the result of the Syrian regime's barbaric inhumanity, and they were the result of the regime and Russia's failure to live up to their worldwide commitment to remove all chemical weapons from Syria".

White agreed with the president, adding that "what happens next depends on what the Assad regime decides to do, and what the Russian government decides to enable".

"I spoke to President Trump this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded", Haley said at an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting called by Russian Federation.

Trump's use of "mission accomplished" less than 24 hours after launching the missiles echoed President George W Bush's infamous 2003 speech a month after United States troops were deployed in Iraq.

"The OPCW used to stay in the two upper rooms, and use the labs, and we would cooperate with them completely", he said.

"I join President Trump in praying for the safety of our war fighters - the finest among us - and our allies as they avenge and deter the use of outlawed chemical weapons in Syria".

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Syrian state television claimed some of the missiles were shot down by the government's air defence systems. Trump attributed the attacks to Russia's inability to stop Syria's Assad from using chemical weapons.

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The strikes Friday were "double" the size of the operation the us carried out in Syria in April 2017 and would result in a "long term degradation of Syria's ability" to create, use and deploy chemical weapons, Pentagon officials said following the move. Assad has vehemently denied launching the chemical attack.

The demonstrations broke out early Saturday following a wave of U.S., British and French military strikes to punish President Bashar Assad for suspected chemical attack against civilians.

Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the only communications that took place between the United States and Russian Federation before the operation were "the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our operations in Syria".

The Pentagon repeated Saturday that the President has the authority under the Constitution to defend U.S. interests, but what happens next is up to the Assad regime and Russian Federation.

Only a fraction of the victims are thought to have been killed by chemical weapons. We hit the sites, the heart of the chem weapons program.

Syrian state media said air defenses were activated to block the attack as it published images of smoke clouds hanging over the capital.

Russia's draft text for a resolution "condemns the aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic by the U.S. and its allies in violation of global law and the UN Charter".

"The three facilities are - or more appropriately now, were - fundamental components to the regime's chemical weapons infrastructure", McKenzie said.

The US was also anxious that the strikes would prompt a confrontation with Syria's biggest military ally: Russian Federation.

· British Prime Minister May cited reports that said the Syrian government had used barrel bombs to deliver the chemical weapons.

The European Union voiced support for the allies.

Still, Trump warned in his televised address of a readiness to "sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents", though he didn't specify what that meant.

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