Friday, April 07, 2017

Striking Syria

For better or worse, President Donald Trump has distinguished himself from his predecessor when it comes to Syria's use of chemical weapons.

The United States launched dozens of cruise missiles Thursday night at a Syrian airfield in response to what it believes was Syria's use of banned chemical weapons that killed at least 100 people, U.S. military officials told NBC News.

Two U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea fired 59 Tomahawk missiles intended for a single target — Ash Sha'irat in Homs province in western Syria, the officials said. That's the airfield from which the United States believes the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired the banned weapons.

There was no immediate word on casualties. U.S. officials told NBC News that people were not targeted and that aircraft and infrastructure at the site were hit, including the runway and gas fuel pumps.

"Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children," President Donald Trump said in remarks from Mar-a-Lago, his family compound in Palm Beach, Florida.

"It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons," said Trump, who called on other countries to end the bloodshed in Syria.

In August 2012, President Obama threatened to use force against Syria if their president, Bashar al-Assad, utilized chemical weapons in any capacity. It was at that point when Obama uttered the infamous quote about the "red line."

“We cannot have a situation in which chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Mr. Obama said in response to questions at an impromptu news conference at the White House. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is, we start seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”

“That would change my calculus,” he added. “That would change my equation.”

A year later, chemical weapons were indeed used by al-Assad, yet no U.S. response occurred. However, Russia seemed to bail out Obama from having to back off his toothless threat by demanding Syria hand over its chemical weapons.

Fast forward 3-1/2 years, which brings us to earlier this week when yet another chemical attack occurred in Syria. While the current president correctly called out Obama's dithering over Syria crossing the proverbial red line, Trump couldn't afford to merely play the card that Obama often utilized, which is to blame the previous administration for current crises. That said, President Trump made a definitive decision, one which was lauded by perhaps two of the most interventionist members of the U.S. Senate.

Both U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were pretty heavy handed in their criticism of Russia's role in Syrian affairs. If indeed Trump is Russia's puppet (as some kooky conspiracy theories suggest), his political appointees (thankfully) aren't willing to play along.


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