WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ordered precision strikes on at least three Syrian military targets on Friday evening in response to last week’s apparent chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held city of Douma.
Speaking from the White House, Trump said the strikes were intended to target the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to prevent similar attacks in the future.
“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.”
Friday’s strikes were part of a joint operation between the U.S., Britain and France, the leaders of which Trump has been in close communication within previous days.
Trump opened his remarks by speaking directly to Russia and Iran, both of which support the Assad regime.
“To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” Trump said. “The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators.”
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov responded to Trump in a statement.
“We are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” Antonov said. “All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”
Antonov added that “insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible.”
As he closed, Trump noted that the U.S. is doing what it can to maintain security in the region, including combatting ISIS, but he added, “Americans have no illusions,” a likely nod to his call to eventually remove U.S. troops from Syria.
“No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East,” Trump said. “It’s a troubled place. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”