Syrian President President Bashar al-Assad responded resolutely Friday to the United States’ unexpected launch the previous evening of a missile strike on one of the dictator’s central air bases, denouncing the attack as “reckless and irresponsible.”
“What America did is nothing but foolish and irresponsible behavior, which only reveals its short-sightedness and political and military blindness to reality,” his office said in a statement.
The Syrian regime’s key ally, Russia, issued a similar statement, reportedly deriding the attack as an act of “aggression,” suspending coordination with U.S. forces in Syria and vowing to assist Assad in shoring up his air defenses.
Moreover, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov reportedly mocked the U.S. military for its alleged poor “combat efficiency,” claiming that only 23 of the 59 missiles fired reached their target.
Assad’s allies in Iran responded similarly, reportedly condemning the strike as “destructive and dangerous” and complaining that “[s]uch measures will strengthen terrorists in Syria … and will complicate the situation in Syria and the region.”
The response from much of the rest of the world was positive, with officials in Canada, Jordan, Israel and the U.K., among others, all expressing support for the president’s decision.
“[W]hen diplomacy fails and civilians suffer, as they have been doing for many years in Syria, and when they are the victim of weapons that have been outlawed by the international community for their horrific and indiscriminate consequences, then we cannot shy away from proportionate military intervention,” British politician Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said in a statement.
The strike had been announced Thursday evening by U.S. President Donald Trump in response to Assad having been accused of poisoning his own citizens with Sarin gas during a military strike carried out against rebel forces Tuesday by his government.
Survivors of the deadly airstrike “described chemical bombs being dropped from planes,” according to CNN, though this account differed sharply with claims by Assad’s regime that the release of Sarin had been caused by the destruction of a nearby rebel-operated chemical weapons warehouse.
Speaking Thursday evening after the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Assad’s Shayrat Air Base, Trump argued that it was vital to the “national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
“There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council,” he continued.
The president also called on “all civilized nations” to join his effort “to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria.”
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