Decrying a “horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” President Donald Trump on Thursday ordered a retaliatory missile strike at the Syrian air base where officials say the regime launched the attack.
U.S. officials contend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad directly authorized this week’s attack, which killed at least 70 people.
“It is in this vital interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
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According to CNN, a pair of Navy vessels in the Mediterranean Sea fired 50 to 60 tomahawk cruise missiles at the Sayrat Airfield in western Syria.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, woman and children,” Trump told reporters Thursday evening. “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.”
The move signals a sharp about-face for Trump, whose administration had said only days ago that it no longer was a U.S. goal to remove Assad from office.
Trump campaigned against involving the U.S. military in open-ended Middle Eastern wars. But the president changed his mind after seeing horrific images of children dying from suspected sarin gas.
“It is in this vital interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” he said. “There can be no dispute that Syria used bad chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), two of the Republican Party’s fiercest hawks, quickly praised the action from Trump.
“Unlike the previous administration, President Trump confronted a pivotal moment in Syria and took action,” they said in a joint statement. “For that, he deserves the support of the American people.”