Along with allies Britain and France, the United States has sent a clear message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his patrons, Russia and Iran: the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.
On April 13, the three (of five) permanent members of the UN Security Council launched a proportional, precise, and coordinated strike against Assad regime targets associated with the use of chemical weapons in Syria. They included a scientific research facility near Damascus which developed, produced and tested chemical and biological warfare technology; a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility near Homs that was also an important command post.
The aim of the strike was to limit Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons against his own people, as he has repeatedly done, and to deter the proliferation of chemical weapons, which, by international law, have been banned for almost a century. Great care was taken by the United States and its allies to avoid civilian and foreign casualties.
It was the second time the United States responded to Assad’s use of chemical weapons. The first was in April 2017 after Assad conducted a chemical weapons’ attack on the village of Khan Sheikhoun. The coordinated strike by the U.S. and its allies on April 13 was about twice as large.
In an address to the American people, President Donald Trump spoke about the scores of Syrians killed in yet another chemical weapons attack by the regime on April 7 in the town of Douma:
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers infants and children thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead.”
President Trump included a message “for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime:”
“To Iran and to Russia, I ask, ‘What kind of a nations wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women and children?’”
President Trump emphasized that establishing a deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons is a vital security interest of the United States. Moreover, he noted, the action taken by Britain, France and the U.S. April 13 is a noble one: the three countries “marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”