Last night, the Trump Administration responded to the Assad Regime’s use of chemical weapons against their own civilians by launching 59 tomahawk missiles at a Syrian military airbase near Homs. This follows years of inaction by the Obama Administration which promised that chemical weapons were a “red line” for American action, yet continually ignored Assad’s use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs against his own people.
While Russia was reportedly warned of the incoming attack an hour in advance, there were still a few casualties. In response, Putin has condemned the strike and torn up an information sharing agreement between the United States and Russia.
Other countries, including the governments of Israel, England, France, Australia and Italy, have thanked the president for finally pushing back against Assad and Putin in Syria. Germany’s Angela Merkel, however, merely condoned the strike. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Prime Minister Theresa May in England both provided strong support for the strike, a very important development due to the important relationships between their countries and the United States.
Although the strike was unexpected, comments by Trump Administration officials and Republican Senators prior to the attack demonstrated that our leaders are committed to a strong response to Assad’s brutality and suggested that some form of actions would be taken. At a press conference with the King of Jordan, a critical Middle Eastern ally of the United States, Trump denounced Assad’s behavior. While the president refused to specify what actions he would take, he stated that it was very possible that his view of the situation had changed and that images of dead children had a big impact on him. We have now seen some initial results of that change.
Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, whose previous connections to Iran and Russia had complicated his nomination, also indicated on Thursday that the United States are once again committed to Assad’s removal. He also stated that an international coalition was being built against Assad.
U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley harshly condemned both Assad and Putin before the strike and strongly supported President Trump’s actions afterward. This morning, she used her authority to demand an open hearing on the airstrike to force Assad’s defenders to answer for his atrocities in public.
With the exception of Senator Rand Paul, who strongly opposed the attack on the grounds that it was unconstitutional, Senate Republicans have praised the president for his actions, especially Senator Marco Rubio, Senator John McCain, and Senator Lindsey Graham. This follows Marco Rubio’s passionate speech earlier this week, in which he argued that Assad had devolved into the area of morally unacceptable and thus was clearly no longer a source of stability.
Across the aisle, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have also praised the Trump administration for taking swift action, although some of their supporters have criticized President Trump for acting without Congressional approval.
The ultimate outcome of this strike is uncertain, but the vast majority of the Trump Administration and Congress have united behind the president in defense of the Syrian people. For the first time in a long time, a president’s promises of military assistance has been kept by utilizing swift and fearless action. The influence of General Kelly, General Mattis, and General McMaster on the National Security Council appears to have immediately increased in the wake of Steve Bannon’s dismissal from the NSC. While Russia’s response to the attack has been limited so far, Trump will now have to decide how to move forward. Defending the Syrian people from their persecutors, preventing extremists groups such as Jahbat Fatah al-Sham and ISIS from taking advantage of the situation, and managing the complex struggle between the Kurds and rebels allied with Turkey prove to be increasing in importance regarding foreign policy. Whether Trump decides to continue with his plan to establish Gulf State funded safe zones or takes a more aggressive approach, he has sent a clear message; American tolerance for Assad’s brutality expired last November.