A Project for Better Journalism chapter

Assad attacks, U.S. responds

Following a chemical weapons attack in the southern Syrian town of Douma, on April 7, a U.S. led Coalition executed a series of airstrikes on Syrian chemical weapons facilities, heightening tension between the U.S. and Syria’s notable allies, Russia and Iran. On April 7, President Assad’s Syrian government forces used chemical weapons in an attack in the contested town of Douma 10 miles north of Damascus, the Syrian capital. Fighting between the Syrian government and rebels rages in Douma; the Syrian government most recently dropped chemical weapons into a part of the town. The attack killed 43 people, most if not all civilians. Many in the international community assume that Assad and the Syrian government were targeting civilians, a fitting assumption as Assad’s government targeted civilians in a similar attack in April of 2017. While millions of refugees have fled, this attack reminds civilians in Syria that their situation is still volatile. The United Nations has condemned and ordered responses to the Syrian government for developing, possessing, and using chemical weapons, effectively violating international law. Five days after the chemical attacks in Douma, a coalition of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States struck chemical weapons facilities with precision airstrikes from American and French warships and British bombers. The attacks destroyed their targets with zero to limited civilian casualties.

Photo from NBCnews.com

Following the strikes, the politics of the conflict and international community immediately reflected the attacks. President Trump announced the attacks on live television condemning the actions of Assad. The President went on to specify the motivation for the American response, “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States.” President Trump then called on the Syrian government’s allies, Iran and Russia, to condemn the attacks as well, “To Iran, and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?” An emergency UN Security Council meeting was held in which the Russian delegation condemned the U.S., U.K., and French response. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, stated that the United States was “locked and loaded” to carry out more strikes if chemical weapons attacks in Syria occurred again. On Saturday, the Russian ambassador to the U.S. said, “We [Russians] are being threatened. We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences.” This exchange of threats between the U.S. and Russia also included statements from Iran. The attacks have heightened tensions in the region, but some analysts are critical of the strikes as they doubt that the strikes will yield effective results. However, only time will tell. Syria and the Middle East yet again have proven to be a battleground for international relations.