United States Strikes Syrian Chemical Stockpiles
On April 14th, a combined group of American, British, and French armed forces sent hundreds of guided missiles into the heart of Syria, targeting the chemical weapons of Dictator Bashar Al-Assad. Overnight, the bombardment inflicted significant damage to the stockpiles and research facilities of President Assad, but avoided wider attacks on Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions.
The coordinated attack was ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump as a response to the reported use of chemical weapons on civilians in the rebel-held region of Douma, a small pocket of resistance outside of the Syrian Capital of Damascus.
The airstrikes, which included over 100 missiles, hit a variety of targets across Syria. The three main positions bombed were a branch of Syria’s Scientific Studies and Research Center, a bunker believed to be storing a large stockpile of Sarin gas, and a holding facility for chemical agents outside the capital.
Lieutenant General Kenneth Mckenzie, a spokesperson for the United States armed forces, called the attacks “precise, overwhelming, and effective,” and that they “set the Syrian Chemical Weapons program back for years.” U.S. sources indicated that virtually none of their missiles were shot down, and that every targeted area was destroyed.
Russian and Syrian sources were quick to combat the narrative of a successful strike. They claimed that Syrian air defenses shot down the majority of missiles fired, and that the damage caused to infrastructure was minimal. President Bashar Al-Assad responded with a short message on twitter, “Honorable souls cannot be humiliated.”
The Russian response was less cryptic. In a prepared statement, Russian Ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Anatov, said, “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” and that “all responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.” Despite the harsh condemnation, Russian forces took no immediate actions of any kind against American troops or their local allies in Syria.
The reaction to the surprise strike was divided in the United States. President Trump, the morning after targets had been hit, tweeted, “A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
High level Republicans also offered their support for the attack, with Senator John McCain (R-AZ) saying, “I applaud the President for taking military action against the Assad regime for its latest use of chemical weapons, and for signaling his resolve to do so again.” Some, like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), even pushed the Trump administration to act more aggressively, “I applaud the President for taking military action against the Assad regime for its latest use of chemical weapons, and for signaling his resolve to do so again.”
Other Government Officials, like House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), were not as supportive of the bombing. Pelosi declared that, “one night of bombings is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.” Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) offered an even stronger condemnation, calling the strikes, “illegal...and reckless” and asked, “what’s going to stop him (President Trump) from bombing Iran or North Korea next?”
Still, despite the debate within the United States over the strikes, bombs had fallen on Sunday, and the response of Bashar Al-Assad and his Russian Allies remains to be seen. It is unlikely that this small scale attack on chemical weapons facilities will deal a major blow to the Syrian Regime, or even prevent them from using chemical weapons again. By Monday morning, Syrian forces had already resumed operations against rebel forces in their last remaining stronghold of Homs.