In a nationally televised address from the White House, Donald Trump announced military strikes on Syrian military assets in reprisal for its recent use of chemical weapons. Trump castigated Bashar al-Assad for his continuing use of chemical weapons, calling him a “monster … not a man.” The strikes will come in coordination with the United Kingdom and France:
He also had tough words for Bashar al-Assad’s allies in Moscow and Tehran, asking, “What kind of nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of men, women, and children?” The kind that gives them access to Mediterranean naval ports, most likely, but the West is making that much more costly than it has been in the past.
The last time Trump ordered reprisal attacks, they mainly focused on the military units that had deployed the chemical weapons. Not this time around:
— Maya Gebeily (@GebeilyM) April 14, 2018
We’ll know more after a Pentagon press briefing at 10 ET. Fox News notes that the Russians threatened to retaliate if the US launched strikes, but it’s hardly in their interest to put themselves in a shooting war with NATO. I’d bet that they’ll sit back at let Assad take his beating unless the strikes start targeting Russian positions.
Update: Theresa May has addressed the British public:
British PM May: We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized – within Syria, on the streets of the UK, or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none."
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) April 14, 2018
Update: Lots of chatter about Tomahawk missiles tonight, which is the weapon of choice for naval bombardments. Did we send any stealth bombers to hit targets before Assad got a chance to start up his missile defenses? I’d bet yes.
Update: It seems that the US, UK, and/or France had some pretty good intel for target selection:
BREAKING: Barzeh district in Damascus hit in U.S. attacks, scientific research facility located in area – Reuters witness pic.twitter.com/Nl7Vkh3aH5
— Reuters (@Reuters) April 14, 2018
Update: Question answered — CNN reports from multiple sources that both cruise missiles and air sorties have been used.
Update: Fox News noted that Syria moved some of its air assets to the Russian air base in Latakiya, but it still looks like the Western coalition is targeting air bases and infrastructure. This reprisal is clearly on a new and larger scale than last year’s.
Update: It won’t just be an evening of strikes:
CNN: #Syria MILITARY Response will be Multi-Wave, Tonight is Not end. (Mattis and Trump canceled travel this weekend)
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) April 14, 2018
French president Emanuele Macron announced that the targeting will be limited to strategic assets associated with the use of chemical weapons:
JUST IN: French Pres. Macron orders strikes "limited to the Syrian regime's capabilities to produce and use chemical weapons."
— ABC News (@ABC) April 14, 2018
In other words, everyone appears to have learned the lesson about remote regime change from seven years ago in Libya.
Update: Looks like there was a planned division of labor. The UK focused on Homs:
BREAKING: UK Defense Ministry says fighter jets launched missiles at a military facility nears Homs, "where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapon precursors stockpiled in breach of Syria’s obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention." – @NBCNews
— Micah Grimes (@MicahGrimes) April 14, 2018
Also, Syrian state television claims that they shot down 13 Tomahawks. It’s highly unlikely to be the case, but dawn will come soon in Syria, and we’ll get a chance to see some bomb-damage assessments a few hours after that, presumably.
Update: Mattis notes that the strikes tonight are separate from the “defeat ISIS coalition.” He also insists that we have gone to “great lengths” to avoid civilian casualties, and presumably Russian casualties as well.
Update: Sometimes it’s tough to keep your story straight:
#BREAKING Moscow suggests any US strikes on Syria could destroy alleged chemical attack evidence
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) April 11, 2018
With any luck, we’re destroying evidence for potential chemical weapons attacks in the future.
Update: Earlier, Trump suggested that the reprisal attacks would be “sustained,” but Mattis and General Dunford seems to suggest that the operation will wrap up soon.
US Defense Sec. Mattis says US attack is one-time shot to dissuade Syrian President Assad from chemical weapons attacks; further US response will depend on Assad regime response.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) April 14, 2018
The targets selected are a broad range of Assad regime assets. So far, they seem to have a lot of success. Dunford also said that the US engaged the Russians on the deconfliction communication system, but only to clear the airspace prior to the attacks.
Update: Dunford emphasizes that the Pentagon has no reports of any US losses, and also no reports of any Russian responses to the attacks. The only response seen, Dunford told the press corps, was Syrian anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems.
Update: Looks like there may be some disillusionment in Syria tonight:
A Syrian journalist in Damascus who’s speaking to @NPRKelly on NPR’s special life coverage says people there didn’t expect these attacks tonight — saw some de-escalation over last 48 hours, thought Russians would come in to protect them
— Jessica Taylor (@JessicaTaylor) April 14, 2018