Syria: US launches 60 missiles in strike on airbase near Homs – live
US military strike under way in Syria after gas attack in Idlib appears to have changed Donald Trump’s view on Bashar al-Assad The Guardian Link
Pentagon: Russia notified before strike
The Pentagon has confirmed it used a hotline for minimising the risk of aerial combat between US and Russian jets in eastern Syria to alert Russia of the strike against its Syrian client.
The Russians are sure to have routed that warning to Assad, raising immediate questions about what the strike will have accomplished, and also signalling that the US does not seek escalation.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said:
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. US military planners took precautions to minimise risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.
The use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio has also welcomed the strike. In a statement, he said:
I salute the bravery and skill of the men and women of our armed forces who conducted this mission. Tonight’s strike against the Assad regime’s Shayrat airbase will hopefully diminish his capacity to commit atrocities against innocent civilians.
By acting decisively against the very facility from which Assad launched his murderous chemical weapons attack, President Trump has made it clear to Assad and those who empower him that the days of committing war crimes with impunity are over.
What must follow is a real and comprehensive strategy to ensure that Assad is no longer a threat to his people and to US security, and that Russia no longer has free rein to support his regime.
The US military has launched a cruise missile volley at Syrian airfields, making the US a direct combatant for the first time against Bashar al-Assad.
Donald Trump, who for years signalled comfort with leaving Assad in power, abruptly switched course after seeing images of children gassed to death in Idlib province after Assad unleashed sarin gas in his latest chemical weapons attack.
The strike comprised dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from the guided-missile destroyers USS Ross and Porter in the eastern Mediterranean. An airfield near Homs was targeted, signalling a limited initial engagement. The US did not target Syria’s formidable air defences, as it does before a concerted airpower campaign.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, both armed services committee hawks who have been sharply critical of Trump even as they have long sought an attack on Assad, praised Trump on Thursday evening.
In a joint statement, they said:
We salute the skill and professionalism of the US armed forces who carried out tonight’s strikes in Syria. Acting on the orders of their commander-in-chief, they have sent an important message: the United States will no longer stand idly by as Assad, aided and abetted by Putin’s Russia, slaughters innocent Syrians with chemical weapons and barrel bombs.
Tomahawks are sophisticated missiles with the ability to shift course in the air, making them analogous to drones on a one-way mission. Syria’s formidable, Russian-supplied air defences, largely along the Mediterranean coast, have long prompted warnings from US military officials against attacking Assad.
Simultaneously, the joint chiefs were briefed at the Pentagon for several hours on Thursday.
As my colleagues Spencer Ackerman and Julian Borger report:
Senior US military commanders have long sounded warnings over involving the US in Syria’s grueling, multifaceted civil war, but the Pentagon is now said to be considering a range of options for standoff missile strikes against Assad regime targets.
Discussions are likely to center on whether the strikes would be punitive and limited – to destroy specific aircraft, airstrips or chemical weapons infrastructure – or the beginning of a broader campaign to oust a ruler whom only days ago the Trump administration was prepared to leave in power.
It is further unclear what, if any, US planning exists for a post-Assad Syria should the US seek to oust Assad and inherit a fractious, violent country.