59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from warships in the eastern Mediterranean by the US at al-Shayrat military airfield in response to Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria. This is the first time the US itself has taken direct military action against the Syrian government. Donald Trump’s move comes after Tuesday’s gas attack killed 86 people, driving the US president to take immediate action: “I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity. I guess something should happen.”

The US airstrike was launched against Bashar al-Assad’s al-Shayrat military airfield at 8.45 (EDT) on Thursday, killing seven people and injuring nine others. The Syrian airfield was used to store chemical weapons and it was used by the aircraft that conducted Tuesday’s attack, according to Pentagon officials.

Trump was having a formal dinner at the time with Chinese president Xi Jinping, their wives, his daughter Ivanka and son in law Jared Kushner, and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. But, three hours after the dinner, Trump had a surprise for his guests and the rest of the world. Standing in front of a podium at his Mar-a-Lago resort, after a dinner of steak and carrots, Trump announced that he “ordered a targeted military strike” in response to Assad’s sarin nerve gas attack against innocent civilians. 

“No child of God should ever suffer such horror”

Trump’s statement at Mar-a-Lago estate addressed Americans, informing them that Assad’s “horrible chemical weapons attack” “choked out the lives of innocent men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of god should ever suffer such horror.” 

Of course, the international community has condemned the Assad regime’s crimes and Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack, but Trump’s sudden change of heart is also an answer to Putin that their bromance is over. Others are speculating that Trump is diverting attention from his own problems and the White House’s connections to Russia. For certain officials, Trump’s move serves as a warning to North Korea in the case that China continues its nuclear ambitions.

But, for Jeremy Corbyn, the US missile attack “risks escalating the war in Syria still further.” He said that the chemical attack needs to be independently investigated by the UN and condemned Trump’s action “without legal authorisation”, while urging the UK government to call for restraint on the Trump administration.

The bromance between Putin and Trump is over

It has been said that Russia was notified 30 minutes before the US airstrikes and military officials took measures not to harm the Russian military. But Russia has denounced the US attack as an “act of aggression” that violated international law. Viktor Ozerov, head of the defense committee in the Russian Federation Council, said that the US strikes “may undermine the efforts in the fight against terrorism in Syria. Russia will demand an urgent UN Security Council meeting after the US airstrike on Syrian aviation base. This is an act of aggression against a UN member.” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to meet with Putin next week in Moscow.

Responses  

The UK Government stood by Trump’s decision, saying that it was “an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime, and is intended to deter further attacks.” 

Democratic senators Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) accepted Trump’s response as an appropriate move, but warned that in the future such actions should be scrutinised by Congress. 

Cardin said: “I cannot emphasize this enough, any longer-term or larger military operation in Syria by the Trump Administration will need to be done in consultation with the Congress. The United States must lead the international community in a negotiated settlement that ends this war and facilitates Assad's removal.”

The Free Syrian Army has also welcomed Trump’s airstrikes but said that they were afraid of retaliation from Assad’s regime.

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker described the chemical weapons attack as “horrific” and said he understood that efforts are needed to “deter future attacks.” Juncker explained that “only a political transition can lead” to peace and that the EU was ready to play its own part in finding a political solution. He didn’t comment on Trump’s US airstrikes.

Russian military helping Syria

The Russian defence ministry spokesman Maj Gen Igor Konashenkov said that a “complex of measures” will be taken to help “protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities”. Konashenkov added that “the combat efficiency of the US strike was very low,” and only 23 of the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles reached the Shayrat air base. It destroyed six MiG-23 fighter jets of the Syrian air force which were under repair but didn’t damage other military equipment. 

Will US airstrikes save people?

The problem with taking such military action is the fact that innocent civilians always die. The situation in Syria is very complicated with Assad, Russia and Iran fighting on the one side and on the other the US, revolutionary groups against the Syrian government, as well as Isis, the Syrian Democratic Forces, and Turkey, among others.

As Lord Wood of Anfield, chair of the United Nations Association UK, has said: “Unilateral action without broad international backing through the UN, without a clear strategy for safeguarding civilians, and through military escalation risks further deepening and exacerbating an already protracted and horrific conflict, leaving civilians at greater, not lesser, risk of atrocities.”

While Trump’s short-lived bromance with Putin might have ended up in a bang, this might have long-term repercussions beyond anybody’s comprehension, including sacrificing the lives of innocent people whose home has become the battleground of foreign powers’ spats and disagreements. 

The UN security council will meet later today to discuss the US strikes in Syria.