The barrage of 105 missiles that rained down on western Syria early Saturday morning intended to deter Syrian President Bashar Assad from launching chemical weapons attacks on his own people, but the military operation raises fresh questions about what happens next.
President Donald Trump’s decision stands to further complicate Syria’s already complex civil war, now in its eighth year. The Americans, Russians, Iranians, Turks, Israelis and more have all been involved in Syria’s bloodshed to varying degrees, turning it into a proxy battleground for various global interests.
The strikes, launched from U.S. bomber jets, warships, and an attack submarine along with French and British fighter jets, ratcheted up tensions in the multi-sided conflict. Syria, with allies Russia and Iran, condemned the attack and hinted at possible reprisal.
The Trump Administration, meanwhile, indicated that the predawn assault was a one-off operation to be repeated only if Assad used chemical weapons again. It wasn’t clear if that now included chlorine, which Assad has used dozens of times against civilians without American retaliation.
Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council “if the Assad regime uses chemical weapons again, the U.S. is locked and loaded.” Such a proclamation risks bringing more American involvement into Syria, which has been engulfed in fighting since 2011 when civil unrest tied to the Arab Spring movement escalated into a full-blown rebellion against Assad. There are about 2,000 U.S. troops currently inside the country, where they’re focused on fighting the last remnants of ISIS.
Speaking Friday night from the White House in a nationally televised address, Trump announced he ordered “precision strikes” with U.S. allies as retaliation for the apparent April 7 chemical attack on the western Syrian town of Douma, in which dozens of civilians were killed. Chlorine is believed to have been used, but nerve agent has not yet been confirmed. “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons,” Trump said. “Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.”
The U.S. military said the main targets of the strikes were two storage facilities, one that produced the deadly nerve agent sarin, and another was part of a command post, which were located west of the city of Homs. The third target was the Barzah Research Center, military facility located near Damascus that conducted research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology.
Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon the aim of Syrian operation was to take out the “heart” of the chemical weapons program, but he acknowledged the strikes “certainly” did not eliminate it.
“Obviously, the Syrian chemical weapons system is larger than the three we addressed,” he said. “However these are the best targets that presented the best opportunity to minimize collateral damage, to avoid killing innocent civilians, and to send a very strong message. We could have …read more
Source:: Time – World