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The Trump administration, along with France and the United Kingdom, began launching precision missile strikes on targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program late Friday night.
President Trump’s announcement comes less than a week after President Bashar Assad's regime launched a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town just outside the Syrian capital, Damascus. Photos emerging from that attack portray children foaming at their mouths, among other injuries.
In his speech, Trump called the attacks “crimes of a monster” and added the allies would be prepared to “sustain a response” until the chemical attacks stop, suggesting further military action from the countries in the future.
Trump also warned Russia, which has actively denied the existence of a chemical attack, saying the strikes were a “direct result' of the country’s failure to stop Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
“Assad's recent attack and today's response are the direct result of Russia's failure to keep that promise,” Trump said. “Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path.’
"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons,” Trump said. “Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.”
Before becoming President, Trump repeatedly criticized former president Barack Obama’s policy in Syria, urging the American leader to resist involvement. But as president, Trump has increased the number of American troops on the ground in the region as well as the number of air strikes on the Islamic State.
UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May issued a statement shortly after Trump’s announcement, saying it was their last and only option.
“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties," May said.
“We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none,”she added
Multiple news outlets reported that several explosions could be seen in the sky and heard Friday evening in Damascus.
President Trump authorized similar strikes in April 2017. U.S. warships launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian government air base in response to a chemical attack by the Assad government.
The strikes on Friday sparked negative reactions from several American lawmakers who question Trump’s authority to launch military action without congressional approval. Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California, among others, took to Twitter to condemn Trump’s military action.
“By illegally bombing Syria, President Trump has once again denied the American people any oversight or accountability in this endless war,” she tweeted. “Congress, not the president, has the power to authorize military action.”
Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania wrote, “Despite being in office for fifteen months, the Administration has not taken steps to outline a comprehensive strategy for Syria. Further, the Administration has failed to request an authorization from Congress for further military action against Assad’s regime.”
Cover image: U.S. President Donald Trump, right, speaks during a meeting with senior military leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, April 9, 2018. Trump said he'll decide within two days on U.S. retaliation against Syria for a suspected chemical weapons attack by President Bashar al-Assad's regime over the weekend, and suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin may share responsibility. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images