On Friday night, President Donald Trump revealed he's ordered military strikes against Syria. His decision comes after a chemical attack struck the city of Douma and killed innocent civilians, The Guardian reported. According to CNN, the president confirmed that both France and the United Kingdom are on board with the decision. The move comes after Trump repeatedly suggested the United States should be tougher on Syria's government. However, the possibility of civilian deaths and heightened violence as a result of the airstrikes is causing concern.
As CNN reported, Trump had supposedly wanted to take action more quickly following the chemical attack on April 7, but faced opposition. Now, it's clear a decision has been made. During his Pentagon briefing on Friday night, Trump began by thanking France and the UK and explaining why he made this decision.
I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapon capabilities of Syrian dictator of Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both. Tonight I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action.
As the Associated Press noted, explosions were reported in Damascus, Syria just minutes after Trump made his announcement. The Huffington Post noted that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a scientific research center and military bases were struck.
While explaining his reasoning, Trump referenced the Syrian chemical attack that occurred just a year prior. That attack was also the first and only other time Trump ordered airstrikes against Syria.
One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian air force. Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians, this time in the town of Douma, near the Syria capital of Damascus.
Trump went on to characterize the April 7 attack as both "evil and despicable" and as an escalation of previous tactics. However, Syria's United Nations representative has denied claims that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's regime conducted the strikes against rebels, the BBC reported. And you may have noticed that Russia was not named among the nations helping the United States carry out airstrikes. That's because Russia, too, has continued to back the Assad regime, suggesting the UK actually staged the chemical attack. France, on the other hand, says it has evidence that Assad deployed chlorine gas at the very least. Dozens were killed in Saturday's attack on Douma and over 500 patients exposed to a chemical agent were brought to the hospital afterwards, according to the Syria Civil Defence and the Syrian American Medical Society.
"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons," Trump continued, emphasizing that the move is also within the United States' best national security interests. According to the president, these strikes will continue to take place until the Syrian regime discontinues its use of chemical weapons.
Though the attacks on Syria's own people are indeed horrendous, there's concern that U.S. airstrikes could make things worse. As Vox's Alex Ward mentioned, this isn't just about the United States and Syria. It's about Russia, too. This latest aggression, for instance, could lead to a nightmarish back-and-forth between the United States and Russia, especially, as Ward noted, if the U.S. airstrike kills Russian troops. On top of that, the past U.S. airstrike on Syria back in 2017 didn't put an end to the chemical weapons attacks. It's possible, in fact, that they instead egged Assad on. But that can't be known.
When it comes down to it, the decision to strike Syria and the decision to not strike Syria are both loaded with serious repercussions that need to be carefully weighed. And with various national players involved besides just the United States and Syria, staying up to date on the pros and cons of Trump's decision will be crucial.