UPDATE: Trump Orders Airstrikes on SyriaApril 13, 2018, 3:19 PM HST (Updated April 13, 2018, 5:19 PM)
President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. Armed Forces to launch an airstrike against Syria on Friday, April 13, 2018, for suspected chemical weapons attacks against the country’s own people.
The attack is being supported by armed forces in France and the United Kingdom.
The announcement came this afternoon at approximately 3 p.m. HST.
In his speech this afternoon, President Trump said, “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 nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent, men, women and children? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep…”
“Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join will civilized nations as a force for civility and peace,” President Trump said.
During the president’s announcement, news sources reported that explosions could be heard in Syria’s capitol, Damascus. This indicates that strikes are targeting Assad’s power structure.
The president says the U.S. and presumably the coalition (France and Britain) are prepared to sustain a response until Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime stops using prohibited chemical weapons, indicating that further military and other actions are possible.
News sources report there are about 2,000 military troops on the ground in Syria in locations other that those to be targeted by air strikes.
American officials are bracing for the prospect of retaliation by its patrons Russia or Iran that could range beyond the physical battlefield and escalate with a counterattack on civilian or military cybersystems in the West.
American officials doubted that Russia or Iran would counterattack directly against U.S. forces in the region but voiced the prospect of an asymmetric retaliation that would rely on Moscow and Tehran’s formidable cyber capabilities.
“The use of chemical weapons is a heinous violation of international law and should be dealt with by the international community,”said Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa. “However, Syria is not within the purview of the current Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). I don’t believe the president had the authority to order this strike and escalate a longstanding conflict without a clear plan. Under the War Powers Act, he should have come to Congress to seek authorization.”
“Bashar al-Assad has again used chemical weapons against his own people,” said Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This is another atrocity and breach of international law, and the international community must hold him accountable.
“While today’s action was taken in concert with France and Great Britain, the president stated that ‘we are prepared for a sustained response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.’” she continued. “I am deeply concerned by the president’s incoherent strategy in this critically important area of the world, where there are layers of complexity and no easy answers.
“If the president is going to shift our mission in Syria, he needs to come to Congress for authorization and explain exactly what his strategy is, and how it supports U.S. national security interests and ends the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe and refugee crisis,” Sen. Hirono concluded.
Earlier this week, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called for the president to refrain from using military action against Syria that would expand and escalate the conflict, and likely result in additional civilian and military casualties, more refugees and fewer resources to invest in rebuilding American communities. She urged him to work toward peace instead.