Jennifer Griffin and Lucas Tomlinson report: The United States launched nearly five dozen cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield early Friday in response to a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians, the first direct assault on the Damascus government since the beginning of that country’s bloody civil war in 2011.
“It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” President Donald Trump said in a statement. “Tonight I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles targeted an airbase at Shayrat, located outside Homs. The missiles targeted the base’s airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, officials said.
Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said initial indications were that the strike had “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment … reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” There was no immediate word about any casualties.
Trump said the base was used as the staging point for Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on rebel-held territory, which killed as many as 72 civilians, including women and children.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children,” Trump said from Mar-a-Lago, Fla. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said the strike should cause a “big shift in Assad’s calculus.”
“Obviously the regime maintains a certain capability to commit mass murder with chemical weapons beyond this air field,” McMaster said. “But it was aimed at this airfield because we could trace that attack back to this facility. It was not a small strike.”
The U.S. missiles hit at 8:45 p.m. Eastern time, 3:45 a.m. Friday morning in Syria. Syrian state TV called the attack an “aggression” that lead to “losses.”
U.S. military officials said they informed their Russian counterparts of the impending attack in an effort to avoid any accident involving Russian forces. Nevertheless, Russia’s Deputy U.N. ambassador Vladimir Safronkov warned that any negative consequences from the strikes would be on the “shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful and tragic enterprise.”
Davis, the Pentagon spokesman, confirmed that “there are Russians at the base,” but said they had been warned “multiple times” to leave. He did not know whether Russian aircraft were at the base when the missiles hit. Read the rest of this entry »
“One U.S. official who has been briefed on the options on Syria said he believed the White House would seek a level of intensity ‘just muscular enough not to get mocked,’” read a report in the Los Angeles Times. In his rebuke, was the president correcting Republicans, Democrats, America’s British allies, or the members of his own Cabinet? Perhaps the answer is all of the above.
“What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?”
He closed the speech by asking the country to summon up the resolve to punish Assad while simultaneously justifying his predetermination to stay his hand. It was the most confused and irresolute speech given by a sitting American president in living memory…(read more)
…When Barack Obama demanded Assad step down in 2011, he took immediate ownership of any consequences to follow. Assad — not being much more than a photo-op for Nancy Pelosi or a dinner date for John Kerry, and owing us utterly nothing (unlike Mubarak or Khaddafi) — told Obama to get bent around a tree, and from that point onward the administration’s strategy has been one long assay into the question of how best to manage an Asshole Who May Still Be Preferable To Outright Anarchy. Obama hedged military action against Assad and against his (now obviously disastrous) decision to withdraw from Iraq and the impending nuclear deal with Iran. When his declaration that Assad Must Go went ignored (and thus became problematic), he simply crossed it off his list, told a nefarious Vladimir Putin to handle it, and went golfing. When his administration realized that any military intervention in Syria would complicate his Iran nuclear deal, he folded. Except the world didn’t fold with him.
“That’s always been this President’s problem: his complete inability to deal with the world at hand, as it exists right in front of his face. When the world forces Barack Obama off his script, he simply retreats to a golf course, ESPN, or most recently the remote wilds of Alaska.”
When reports emerged that Assad had utilized chlorine gas against both rebels and civilians, Obama was suddenly boxed into a world which preceded his ascension and more importantly, didn’t give a damn about what he thought. Obama and his famously anti-war Secretary of State John Kerry reaped the consequences of spending the prior five years demonizing the difficult decisions made by their predecessors, either unaware or unfazed by the idea that they might one day have to rally the country and the world around a “Red Line” they themselves had set, and as it turns out weren’t very good or very interested in necessitating either….
That’s always been this President’s problem: his complete inability to deal with the world at hand, as it exists right in front of his face. When the world forces Barack Obama off his script, he simply retreats to a golf course, ESPN, or most recently the remote wilds of Alaska.
“It wasn’t ‘the United States’ that let Obama get away with declaring ‘I didn’t set that red line, the world did’ only to have him to walk out the door like a dejected child needing an afternoon snack and media-induced nap.”
Nowhere was this more evident than when his habit of diplomatic detachment inconveniently washed up on the shores of the Greek island of Kos last week when a boat carrying Syrian refugees capsized. While President Jor-El embarked on a magical mystery end-of-summer climate cruise to call attention to Alaskan glacier-melt in summer, the world was suddenly captivated by the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi lying face down in front of rescue workers….
“No, that was our media: rather than hold him accountable for his own declarations of removing Assad and setting a “red line,” they simply shrugged, muttered a word or two about how war Totally Sucks Anyway, and went back to writing think pieces on the cultural impact of the President’s NCAA tournament bracket.”
It wasn’t “the United States” that let Obama get away with declaring “I didn’t set that red line, the world did” only to have him to walk out the door like a dejected child needing an afternoon snack and media-induced nap. No, that was our media: rather than hold him accountable for his own declarations of removing Assad and setting a “red line,” they simply shrugged, muttered a word or two about how war Totally Sucks Anyway, and went back to writing think pieces on the cultural impact of the President’s NCAA tournament bracket.
Because of DC media’s nerd-prom infatuation at the thought of being a part, any part, of this socially cool West Wing Presidency, we have to turn to other sources in calling out this ridiculous clipboard hashtag foreign policy. Earlier this year in a brief appearance during Jon Stewart’s Night of Too Many Stars, and much to the horror of the crowd, stand up comedian Bill Burr tore into Michelle Obama over the White House’s penchant for doing nothing to stop these events except guilt-shaming us with puppydog eyes:
“She’s sitting there holding up those hashtags, Bring Back Our Girls. Remember that hashtag #BringBackOurGirls? That blew my mind, like, why are you showing me that? I’m a stand up comedian. Like what am I going to do to get back the girls? Why don’t you look across the dinner table — you see that guy? That is the Leader Of The Free World. Tell him to pick up a phone, call some Navy SEALs and solve it….what am I going to do? Show up with a sharpened mic stand? HEY EVERYONE MICHELLE TOLD ME TO BRING THEM BACK”
The whole routine is worth watching, if for no other reason than to see an overly-sensitive politically correct crowd, saturated with social media activism for the past seven years, pucker helplessly in their seats. And yet that’s where we’re at. Using Twitter to hold up signs — it’s exasperating precisely because the one “Red Line” that actually seems to still exist is the one forbidding the media from holding the one guy who can do anything about these foreign policy meltdowns and humanitarian crises responsible.
Our media collectively demands accountability for these conflicts from every single person…except the one person who has any real power to stop or mitigate it. This has always been the anecdote in Obama’s foreign policy: 1) show up 2) demand the world follow him 3) world leaders balk at his demands 4) he shrugs his shoulders and goes and plays with his selfie stick somewhere. If Obama really feels like going “all-out,” sometimes there will be an additional step 5 involving Twitter pictures of the State Department’s junior-hipster mall brigade flashing grins, thumbs-up, and razor-edged hashtags (fashioned by America’s sharpest military scientists working in the depths of DARPA to help win The Bloody War Of Memes).
Eastern Ukraine is still occupied by Putin and “our girls” have still not been returned and beyond hashtagvism, an administration far more interested in mobilizing mobs at home has all but failed to mobilize allies abroad. The repercussions of this President’s media-abetted lethargy and diplomatic ADHD will echo for generations and the same click-driven SEO Wizards of Trends that tell us now not to look away at the horrors flooding Europe will immediately torch the next Republican President for being boxed into intervening there. The Warmongering Neocon cliches will flood social media via progressive outlets like an undimmed tide, and passed off as the same interventionism nonsense by the Sunday morning peacock mafia.
It’s hard to quell the suspicion that this is why western leaders will not do what is necessary to rid the world of both ISIS and Assad. Legacy media demands we pay attention, but absolutely refuses to admit what in fact would be necessary for ending this: boots on the ground. Blood and treasure. War. Again, war. And war against whom? ISIS, yes, sure. But Assad? Do we risk all-out war with Assad in Syria, who is now backed now by Vladimir Putin, who has ramped up support with ground troops and armored divisions inside Syria? Better do a quick hit on ESPN Radio talking sports instead.
For more than three years, Barack Obama has been trying to avoid getting into a fight in Syria. But this week, with great tracts of the Middle East under the jihadist’s knife, he at last faced up to the inevitable. On September 23rd America led air strikes in Syria against both the warriors of Islamic State (IS) and a little-known al-Qaeda cell, called the Khorasan group, which it claimed was about to attack the West. A president who has always seen his main mission as nation-building at home is now using military force in six countries—Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
” When Syrians rose up against the regime of Bashar Assad, the president stood back in the hope that things would sort themselves out—leaving Mr Assad free to commit atrocities against his own people.”
The Syrian operation is an essential counterpart to America’s attacks against IS in Iraq. Preventing the group from carving out a caliphate means, at the very least, ensuring that neither of these two countries affords it a haven (see article). But more than the future of IS is at stake in the streets of Raqqa and Mosul. Mr Obama’s attempt to deal with the jihadists is also a test of America’s commitment to global security. It is a test that he has been failing until now.
“About 200,000 Syrians have died and 10m have been driven from their homes. Denied early American support, the moderate Syrian opposition has fragmented, leaving the field to the ruthless and well-organised IS.”
David Francis writes: As the eyes of the world and the media turn to Ukraine, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has quietly been making momentous gains in his three-year civil war with rebels that all but assure he will leave office on his own terms.
“He is still in power, and with negotiations stalled, it’s unlikely he’ll be removed. In short, he’s won.”
Assad’s army has taken Yabroud, the last major town held by Sunni Muslim rebels, located near the Lebanese border. On Tuesday, with support from Hezbollah fighters and local paramilitary groups, Assad’s forces bombarded the town until the rebels retreated.
Taking Yabroud is an important victory for Assad, who has been fighting for months to control the surrounding region.. He has now effectively cut off rebel supply lines from Lebanon.
President Obama is either a master foreign-policy strategist or making it up as he goes along. Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Give President Obama credit: He has done such a good job of acting unpredictably in the lead-up to his proposed military strikes on Syria that no one knows what he will do next. He has successfully confused ally and enemy alike. Sun Tzu would be proud. Read the rest of this entry »
Putin Didn’t Save Obama, He Beat Him. Maybe Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin really did discuss the idea of putting Syrian chemical weapons under international control last week on the sidelines of the G20 conference. Putin sure doesn’t care that Obama’s taking credit for the proposal, or that the administration is posturing like a Mob enforcer. “The only reason why we are seeing this proposal,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney, “is because of the U.S. threat of military action.”
Right, Putin is laughing to himself. Whatever. If Obama wants to sell it like a Christmas miracle on Pennsylvania Avenue that’s fine with Putin, because Putin won. Read the rest of this entry »
Ted Cruz represents Texas in the Senate, where he is a member of the Armed Services Committee.
No decision by an elected official is more serious than whether to send our armed forces into conflict. President Obama was right to seek Congress’s authorization to use military force against Syria. But having carefully considered the president’s substantive arguments, I am compelled to vote against the requested authorization.
But I do not believe a limited airstrike, as proposed by the president, will lead to success or improve conditions in Syria. There are other actions we can and should take to confront this atrocity, starting with forcing a vote in the U.N. Security Council condemning Assad for this attack; doing so would unify the world against the regime and expose China’s and Russia’s support for this tyrant. Read the rest of this entry »
As President Obama makes his rounds on major news nets to plead his case for limited military action against Syria, CBS and PBS may have landed the biggest interview in the hotly-contested international crisis yet: one with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Charlie Rose interviewed the Syrian leader Sunday morning in Damascus, and discussed with the prez his alleged use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians on August 21. Per Rose, who called in to CBS’s “Face the Nation” and relayed details of the interview, Assad wholly denied the allegations. Read the rest of this entry »
Ricocet’s Artur Davis writes: After a week of national debate, I think I follow the arguments for the pending Syrian force resolution before Congress: air strikes won’t threaten Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power; and they may or may not deter Assad from continuing the devastation of his own citizenry (which, by the way, has been well underway for the better part of two years without any attempt at American intervention). Bombing would enforce the conscience of an international community that also happens to be conspicuously unwilling to act, even under the auspices of the usual fig leaves, NATO and the UN Security Council. True, Assad is not even remotely on the verge of exporting his destruction to his neighbors, and there is not a shred of evidence linking him to any credible threat to our homeland. But we should push ahead in the interests of future presidents having the flexibility to rattle sabers with credibility: and by the way, you are likely guilty of being an unsophisticated strategic thinker or an isolationist if you disagree. Read the rest of this entry »
“Does anyone know what the president now really wants?” the author writes. | AP Photo
By Elliot Abrams
In March 2011, President Obama committed the United States to action in Libya that involved roughly 100 cruise missile firings, 12 U.S. Navy ships in the Mediterranean, and 75 U.S. Air Force and Navy aircraft including B-2 bombers. And the Libyan case involved no use of chemical warfare by Muammar Qadhafi. Still, the president saw no reason to seek a congressional vote.
Mugged by Middle East reality, President Obama and Secretary Kerry seem finally to have awakened to the necessity to act—unilaterally and un-apologetically. That’s heartening. Still, do they understand that the American action has to be decisive? After all, as the late Mike Scully put it, liberals sometimes get mugged by reality—but then fail to press charges. Will Obama press charges? And pressing the appropriate charges in this case means removing Assad.
The red line from Aleppo goes to Turk Telekom, whose Syrian service is currently disrupted. (Renesys)
While the U.S. government continues to weigh military intervention in Syria, it appears that Syria’s largest city has gone dark on the Internet. Aleppo, a city in Northern Syria that has been the site of intense fighting between rebel forces and the Assad regime, and the surrounding area appear to have lost connectivity to the Internet as of last night.
The Switch received a tip informing us that Internet was out in parts of Northern Syria. Following up on that lead, we contacted Doug Madory of Internet intelligence company Renesys. In a recent blog post, Madory explained that outages in the Aleppo area are strongly correlated to disruptions in Turk Telekom’s service to the Syrian Telecommunications Establishment. When Turk Telekom service drops out of Syria, Aleppo appears to experience a “last mile” outage, but other areas continue to have Internet access through PCCW and Deutsche Telekom.
According to Madory, Turk Telekom service to Syria dropped out at 17:48:42 UTC on Aug 29. This suggests that Internet service in the Aleppo area has been out since last night.