Early Friday morning reports came in of US missile strikes targeting a Syrian Air Base. The strikes appear to be in response to chemical weapons suspected to have been by Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Government. US officials report that the base is believed to have been the site from which the chemical weapons were launched earlier this week.
A chemical attack is considered a crime against humanity. If reports of the chemical attach are true, this would call into question Russia’s support of Assad’s Government, if Assad were to be found responsible. Russia for their part have claimed that Syrian rebels were responsible for the use of chemical weapon, a claim supported by Assad’s Government. US officials, including President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerman, have rejected these claims and have made calls upon the Russian government to reconsider their support for Assad’s government. On Wednesday Vice-President Mike Pence made a statement, in an interview with Fox News, that “All options are on the table.”
US forces have reported that Syria’s ability to deliver chemical weapons have been reduced because of the strike. A reported 60 missiles were used to execute a targeted strike against Al Shayrat airfield, targeting Syrian jets and Infrastructure. The US is reported to have given advanced warning of the strike to the Russian Government. The Pentagon in an official statement said that all precautions had been taken to ensure minimal risk to airfield personnel. It was also stated that all efforts to ensure missiles did not pose a risk to Russian facilities.
The decision to conduct strikes is a departure from President Trump’s previous stance on Syria. Trump, during his candidacy, warned against involvement in the Syrian Civil War, however today he stated that the chemical attacks, that killed more than 70 people including children, were “a disgrace to humanity.” The move by the US government is believed to be a statement that actions such as the chemical attack would not be tolerated and would warrant a strong response.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s Federal Minister for Immigration, commented on the strike stating that the Australian Prime Minister had been briefed on the strike before it occurred. Dutton also made broad statements in support of previous US operations. Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, has given his and the Labor Party’s support for the strikes. Chris Bowen stated that the Labor Party would work with the Government to help form a response. The Greens, represented by acting leader Scott Ludlum, issued condemnation for the strikes. They have called the action a “dangerous escalation of the conflict” and that the chemical attack requires “a credible, independent investigation, not a barrage of missiles ordered by a clueless President.” The Greens have called into question Australia’s alliance with the US, suggesting our links with the US could pose a security risk.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in a statement to the media today, confirmed Australian Military did not participate in the strikes. He further condemned the use of chemical weapons, and referred to all uses of chemical weapons as a crime against humanity. The Prime Minister reaffirmed Australian support for the military coalition in Syria and Iraq, and gave his support to the missile strikes conducted by the US. Defence Minister Marise Payne stated that the strikes would serve to “prevent and deter” further chemical weapon use.
The Prime Minister stated that Australia is calling upon the United Nations’ Security Council to act against Syria for its use of chemical weapons, but stated Russia’s support for Assad’s Government has prevented action by the Security Council. With US and Russian officials disputing the source of the chemical weapon attack it is unlikely there will be a resolution in the Security Council in the near future.
Words by Mike Anderson