The United States launched a military strike in Syria on Thursday, and President Trump's statement on the Syrian strike includes language insisting that it was in the "vital national security interest" of the United States to do so. A Pentagon official told the BBC that a U.S. Navy destroyer in the Mediterranean launched more than 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Thursday evening; Trump said that this was in response to a chemical gas attack, believed to have been launched by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in northern Syria earlier in the week. Assad's regime still denies involvement.
"Tonight, I ordered a targeted, military strike on the airfield in Syria from the area where the chemical attack was launched," Trump said. "It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
Claiming that there's "no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons" in the recent attack, Trump said that "even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack."
"No child of God should ever suffer such horror," Trump said. "Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds, and all types."
Prior to becoming president, Trump unequivocally opposed U.S. military action in Syria, even in response to chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime. In 2013, when President Obama was considering airstrikes in the country under similar circumstances, Trump wrote that America should "stay out of Syria and other countries that hate us."
"President Obama, do not attack Syria," Trump wrote in a tweet that same year. "There is no upside and tremendous downside." Obama ultimately decided against airstrikes in Syria.
However, Trump said on Thursday that "years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically."
"As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies," the president continued.
The administration hasn't said how long it plans to continue striking targets in Syria, nor what its long-term goals in the region are. On Thursday, before the strikes began, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while "Assad’s role in the future is uncertain," the chemical gas attack makes it "seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people." However, he also said that any attempt to remove Assad from power would have to be an "an international community effort," and that it could only take place after ISIS is defeated in the region.