WASHINGTON – Republicans Senators John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) praised President Donald Trump’s decision to order a cruise missile strike against a Syrian air force base.
“We salute the skill and professionalism of the U.S. 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,” McCain and Graham said in a joint statement issued Thursday evening shortly after the strikes had begun.
McCain and Graham have both long criticized the Assad regime for its human-rights abuses and sponsorship of international terrorism.
About 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired from U.S. Naval vessels off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea Thursday evening targeting Shayrat Airfield in western-central Syria. The airfield stored chemical weapons that were used in a recent attack in which almost 100 civilians were killed, President Trump said after the strike.
Nine were killed in the U.S. airstrike and the airfield sustained heavy damage, authorities said.
Syria has been engulfed in sectarian violence since 2011
Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad has often faced international criticism as a war criminal for resorting to ruthless tactics to stamp out political opposition.
Assad’s power base lies within Syria’s Alawite ethnic minority. The dictator has struggled to maintain power in the face of internal and international pressure to implement political reforms.
Assad’s human-rights abuses largely went unchecked for decades because of international concern that terrorist elements would fill the power vacuum if his regime were to collapse.
Russia has provided substantial military aid to Syria since the 1960s, when the Middle East became a Cold War battleground with the Soviet Union backing Arab states and the U.S. supporting Israel.
Moscow condemned the U.S. attack, calling it a “Trumped-up strike.”
Israel put a dent in Syria’s nuclear program in 2007 with an unexpected airstrike on a suspected nuclear reactor in the eastern region of the country.
Syria at the time denied that the facility was being used to make weapons-grade uranium but the International Atomic Energy Agency later disputed those claims.