Support for missile strikes against a Syrian military base ordered Thursday night by President Donald Trump has swelled in the hours following the attack as U.S. allies backed the first American effort to retaliate against Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad.
A pair of U.S. Navy destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles late Thursday night, destroying the Syrian military airbase where aircraft that carried out this week’s chemical weapons attack are believed to have originated. That chemical attack left more than 70 people dead, including women as well as children young enough to still wear diapers.
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In remarks delivered from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, President Donald Trump announced the missile strikes and called “on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.” The president said the Syrian chemical weapon attack resulted in “a slow and brutal death for so many” and that “no child of God should ever suffer such horror."
Assad’s government, which has denied that it was behind the chemical weapons attack, called the attacks “reckless,” “short-sighted” and “irresponsible,” according to a report by The Associated Press.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the first to weigh in, praising Trump for sending “a strong and clear message that the use and spread of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.” Netanyahu expressed hope that the message sent by Trump would be heard not only bySyria but also byNorth Korea and Iran.
The Israeli Defense Force, which said it was given notice of the strikes by the U.S., also released a statement praising the missile strikes.
At a Friday news conference, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, with whom Trump reportedly had a terse conversation earlier this year, said “the Australian Government strongly supports the swift and just response of the United States” and called the missile strikes “a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response.” He added that the Australian defense minister was notified before the strikes were carried out.
British Prime Minister Theresa May also praised the attacks, calling them “an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks." French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who issued a joint statement, said Assad “bears sole responsibility” for the missile strike because of his regime’s use of chemical weapons.
Russia, a close ally of Syria, denounced the U.S. strikes as “aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international law” that were launched “under a far-fetched pretext.” While the U.S. has claimed intelligence identifying the Syrian government as responsible for this week’s chemical weapons attack, Russia has said the attack was the result of a traditional airstrike which hit an unknown cache of chemical weapons in a rebel-controlled portion of Syria.
"Washington’s move deals a significant blow to the Russia-U.S. relations, which are already in a deplorable shape,” a Kremlin spokesman said.
As a result of the U.S. missile strikes, Moscow said it will suspend an agreement with Washington by which the two nations share information about ongoing airstrike operations in Syria. The Russian military also said it would aid its Syrian counterpart in beefing up its air defenses.
The Russian military also sought to downplay the effectiveness of the U.S. strikes, stating publicly that only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk missiles reached their intended target. Citing a U.S. official, The Associated Press reported that all except one of the American missiles hit their targets.
Iran, another Syrian ally, was similarly critical of the U.S. strikes, calling them “dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law,” according to the Los Angeles Times. A spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry questioned whether Assad’s forces were indeed to blame for the deployment of chemical weapons, calling the attack “suspicious” and its perpetrators “cloaked in a curtain of ambiguity.”
On Twitter, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif noted that his nation had been the victim of a chemical weapon attack by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1980s and wrote that “Iran condemns use of all WMD by anyone against anyone.” But he called the allegations of a chemical weapon attack by the Syrian government “bogus.”
“Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups,” he wrote.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia lauded Trump’s “courageous decision” to launch missile strikes against Assad’s military. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a rally reported on by AP, said the launches were a “concrete step” but urged further action, including the establishment of safe zones.