US forces fired a barrage of cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase on Friday in response to what President Donald Trump called a "barbaric" chemical attack that the Damascus regime had launched on its own citizens. The massive strike — the first direct US action against President Bashar al-Assad's government and Trump's biggest military decision since taking office — marked a dramatic escalation in American involvement in Syria's six-year civil war.
The missile assault followed days after images of dead children and victims suffering convulsions emerged from the suspected sarin gas attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun shocked the world. Syria's regime has denied any use of chemical weapons and state media on Friday described the US strike — which was reported to have pulverised the base and killed at least four servicemen — as an "act of aggression".
Russia too denounced the US action, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying President Vladimir Putin considered it "aggression against a sovereign state" that would inflict "considerable damage" on US-Russia ties. Trump announced the strike in a brief televised address delivered hours after the UN Security Council failed to agree on a probe into the suspected chemical attack.
Declaring it in America's "vital national security interest" to prevent the spread of chemical weapons, Trump accused Assad of a "very barbaric attack" in which "even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered." "Tonight I call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end this slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types," Trump said. Officials said the US fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Airfield at 3:40 am Syrian time on Friday.
While most nations backed the sudden decision of the Trump administration to attack the Syrian airbase, there were world leaders and nations who were not very supportive of the move. From strong messages of support to fierce condemnation, here are the main global reactions to the strike in response. First let's take a look at what the nations against the strike said:
Unsurprisingly, the main ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was robust in its opposition to the strike. The strikes were an "aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms," the Kremlin said. In addition, the action has inflicted "considerable damage" to already "lamentable" US-Russia ties, the Kremlin warned in a statement. Moscow announced on Friday it was halting an agreement with the United States aimed at avoiding clashes between their forces in the skies over Syria in response to Washington's strike in the war-torn country.
"The Russian side is halting the effect of the memorandum for prevention of incidents and ensuring safety of air flights during operations in Syria which was agreed with the US," a statement by the Russian foreign ministry said. Russia also demanded an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the strike.
"We call upon the UN Security Council to hold an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation," the foreign ministry in Moscow said in a statement, calling the strike a "gross... violation of international law." "President Putin considers American strikes on Syria aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms, and under an invented pretext," Peskov was reported as saying by Russian agencies.
"The Syrian army does not have any chemical weapon stockpiles," added Peskov. "The fact of destruction of all chemical weapon stockpiles of the Syrian armed forces was recorded and confirmed by the (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)." "This step by Washington inflicts considerable damage to US-Russia relations, which are already in a lamentable state," Peskov said.
The Iranian regime said it "strongly condemned" the strike as it condemns "all unilateral military action". It said the action was taken under the "pretext" of the chemical strike."We condemn all unilateral military action and the missile strike by US warships against Shayrat airbase under the pretext of Tuesday's suspected attack on Khan Sheikhun," foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told the Fars news agency. Its spokesman said that the US strike would merely "help the terrorist groups, which are on the back foot, and further complicate the situation in Syria and in the region."
Apart from Russia and Iran, here are reactions from the countries which backed the strike, which was the first direct assault by US.
The close American ally said it "fully supported" the strikes, judging them an "appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack". It said the strikes were "intended to deter further attacks."
"The UK government fully supports the US action, which we believe was an appropriate response to the barbaric chemical weapons attack launched by the Syrian regime," the spokesman said in a statement on Friday. He also said the US strikes were "intended to deter further attacks".
Britain, France and the United States are pushing for a vote at the United Nations Security Council on a resolution demanding a full investigation of the suspected chemical attack in Syria. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Tuesday said the attack bore "all the hallmarks" of action by government forces and called for those responsible to be "called to account".
Nato ally Turkey, which is a key player in the Syria conflict and has endured choppy relations with Washington recently, welcomed the strikes as "positive." The deputy foreign minister added: "We believe that the Assad regime must be punished completely in the international arena." Welcoming the US missile strike, Turkey called for a no-fly zone in the country to prevent further bloodshed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the strike against the Sharyat airbase in Homs, northern Syria, was "a positive response" to the "war crimes" of the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "In order to prevent similar massacres from happening again, it is necessary to enforce a no-fly zone and create safe zones in Syria without further delay," he added in a statement. He said the destruction of Sharyat airbase marked "an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished."
A foreign ministry official hailed US President Donald Trump as "courageous" for taking action when "the international community has failed to put a halt to the regime's actions."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel "fully supports" the "strong and clear message" sent by the air strikes. He added that the message should "resonate not only in Damascus, but in Tehran, Pyongyang and elsewhere."
With inputs from AFP and The Associated Press
Published Date: Apr 07, 2017 02:55 pm | Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 02:55 pm