WASHINGTON- Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) applauded President Donald Trump’s decision to attack Syrian military targets linked to the production of chemical weapons.
“I applaud the president for taking military action against the Assad regime for its latest use of chemical weapons, and for signaling his resolve to do so again if these heinous attacks continue,” McCain said in statement.
However, McCain warned: “To succeed in the long run, we need a comprehensive strategy for Syria and the entire region. The President needs to lay out our goals, not just with regard to ISIS, but also the ongoing conflict in Syria and malign Russian and Iranian influence in the region. Airstrikes disconnected from a broader strategy may be necessary, but they alone will not achieve U.S. objectives in the Middle East.”
On Friday evening, Trump ordered strikes against Syrian military targets in retaliation for last week’s chemical attack on civilians in the rebel stronghold of Douma, which is located near Damascus. The U.K. and France also participated in the airstrikes. At least three targets were hit including a scientific research center, a chemical weapons storage facility, and a command post, a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters. There are no reported allied causalities.
Trump said the U.S. will consider additional strikes if Syrian dictator Bashar-al-Assad again uses chemical weapons. Last year Trump ordered a cruise missile strike against a Syrian air force base in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed almost 100 civilians.
Several members of Congress issued statements following the strike.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said, “We are united in our resolve that Assad’s barbaric use of chemical weapons cannot go unanswered. His regime’s unconscionable brutality against innocent civilians cannot be tolerated.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “I support the action and the objective. The tactics employed by the Assad regime to consolidate gains and terrorize the people of Syria defied the U.S. position that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”
Democrats were more cautious.
“A pinpointed, limited action to punish and hopefully deter Assad from doing this again is appropriate, but the administration has to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
“While the U.S. and our allies must not turn a blind eye to Assad’s vile and inhumane attacks against his own citizens, military action in Syria must be measured, as part of a coherent strategy to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons without further destabilizing an already-volatile region or inadvertently expanding the conflict,” Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) said.
Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011.
Assad has 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.
Russia and Iran have provided substantial military and economic assistance to Assad’s regime.
On Saturday morning, Russian president Vladimir Putin condemned the airstrikes.
“Russia condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack against Syria, where Russian military personnel are assisting the legitimate government in its counterterrorism efforts,” Putin said a statement. “Through its actions, the US makes the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in Syria even worse and brings suffering to civilians.”
Putin went on to say: “Russia will convene an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the aggressive actions by the US and its allies.”