Washington, DC – US Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis called the air strikes a “one time shot” as Britain and France joined the United States in bombing multiple government targets, alleged chemical weapons sites in Syria. The strikes are in response to a suspected chemical attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week, according to the US administration.
Addressing journalists at a hurriedly called press briefing late tonight (April 13) in the Pentagon, Mattis said, “As the world knows, the Syrian people have suffered terribly under the prolonged brutality of the Assad regime.”
Secretary Mattis added, “On April 7, the regime decided to again defy the norms of civilized people showing callous disregard for international law by using chemical weapons to murder women, children and other innocents. We and our allies find these atrocities inexcusable.”
Appearing along with Mattis at the briefing, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “The targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the Syrian regime chemical weapons program.” Gen. Dunford listed the targets as one near the capital Damascus and two more near Homs:
A scientific research facility near Damascus
A chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs
A chemical weapons equipment storage and an important command post, also near Homs
At the briefing, the military brass made it clear that the strikes tonight were far harder than the ones last year, when the United States launched 58 missiles against the Shayrat air base following a chemical attack.
“Obviously, the Assad regime did not get the message last year,” Mattis said. More than double the amount of ordnance used in last year’s strike was used in this one, Dunford said. He said there were reports of Syrian anti-aircraft actions, but it is too early to assess the effectiveness.
Stressing that the strikes were directed against the Syrian regime, and great caution was taken to avoid civilian and foreign casualties, Secretary Mattis told journalists, “It is a time for all civilized nations to urgently unite to end the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations backed Geneva peace process.”
The strikes now send a very clear message to Syrian leaders “that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable,” the secretary noted.
Gen Dunford at the briefing said the wave of strikes had ended and Secretary Mattis told journalists that “right now, this is a one-time shot,” adding, “Right now we have no additional attacks planned.”
The strikes started at 9 pm ET time as the US President Donald J. Trump addressed the nation. President Trump threatened to continue the strikes, saying, “The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power — military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”
Addressing the nation, President Trump said, “My fellow Americans, a short time ago, I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway.”
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead,” Trump said.
Blaming the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration, President Trump said, “In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad’s recent attack are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise.”
In a reply to the strikes, Russian Ambassador to the US, Antonov tweeted: “A pre-designed scenario is being implemented. Again, we are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences,” adding, “All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris.”