The government of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has condemned U.S. airstrikes on a Syrian airbase in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack by Assad troops that killed dozens of civilians, including children.
The U.S. response, Assad’s military argued, make the United States a “partner” of the Islamic State and other jihadi groups.
“The United States of America committed a blatant act of aggression targeting one of our air bases in the Central Region with a number of missiles, leaving 6 people martyred and a number of others injured and causing huge material damage,” the General Command of the Army and the Armed Forces of Syria said in a statement published on state news broadcaster SANA.
“The attack, the statement added, makes the United States of America a ‘partner’ of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist organizations that have sought since day one of the unfair war on Syria to attack points of the Syrian army and the Syrian military bases,” SANA reported. “Jabhat al-Nusra” is the former name of the Sunni Islamist militia that was once the military arm of al-Qaeda and Syria and has since split.
President Donald Trump ordered the launch of 59 Tomahawk land attack missiles at a Syrian army airbase late Thursday, a response to a Syrian military operation this week that initial reports claimed had killed and injured hundreds of civilians in Khan Sheikhoun, Idlib province. The Syrian attack targeted a Sunni opposition stronghold and appeared to involve the use of chemical weapons.
The U.S. response, the Pentagon clarified Thursday, was “in response to the Syrian chemical weapons attack April 4th in Khan Sheikhoun. … That attack killed and injured hundreds of innocent Syrian people, including women and children.”
The Syrian government has responded to the U.S. attack by claiming that the Tomahawk missiles also hit civilians in a nearby village, though American officials have insisted that the attack targeted Syrian military assets – the assets believed to have been used in the alleged chemical attack – and that proper deconfliction measures were taken to avoid striking areas populated by Russian soldiers.
Assad’s two most-prominent allies, Iran and Russia, have responded similarly to Trump’s military order, accusing the United States of aiding the Islamic State by opposing the use of chemical weapons on civilians, banned by international law.
“As the only recent victim of mass use of chemical weapons (by [former Iraqi dictator] Saddam [Hussein] in the ’80s, Iran condemns use of all WMD (weapons of mass destruction) by anyone against anyone,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif posted on Twiter. “Not even two decades after 9/11, US military fighting on same side as al-Qaida & ISIS in Yemen & Syria. Time to stop hype and cover-ups.”
Contrary to the implication in Zarif’s tweet, the Syrian Civil War is not being fought between only the Assad regime and the Islamic State, but among a host of militias that include Kurdish factions, Christian defense units, and al-Qaeda fighters who split with the Islamic State.
President Trump justified the attack as a warning to Assad that the United States would not permit the flagrant violation of international law. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed and failed very dramatically,” the President said in a statement Thursday night. “Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told reporters that the attack was necessary to prevent Assad from “normalizing the use of chemical weapons” and blamed the Russian government for being “complicit” in the chemical weapons attack or “incompetent” to stop it. Moscow had guaranteed the world that Assad had rid his military of its chemical weapons stockpiles during the Obama administration.