United States attacks Syrian air base with cruise missiles

"The affect of the American response has been to reduce the ability of the Syrian government to deliver chemical weapons in the shocking manner in which they did a few days ago". The concern, according to the official, is that Assad could order a counter strike, targeting the Americans. "I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity", he said Thursday.

The Obama administration concluded that Syria had violated the "red line" Obama had set a year earlier in discussing the use of chemical weapons, but ultimately decided against military action against Syria in favor of a Russian-brokered deal to extricate the country's chemical weapons stockpile.

The U.S. assault came in response to a deadly chemical attack earlier this week in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the country's northeastern Idlib province. There appear to be no immediate casualties to either Syrian forces or those of Assad's ally, Russia.

"The perpetrators must be held to account".

There is also the risk that the attack could kill Russian troops who have been supporting the Assad regime.

The relatively quick response to the chemical attack came as Trump faced a growing list of global problems, from North Korea and China to Iran and Islamic State, and may have been meant to send a message to friends and foes alike of his resolve to use military force if deemed necessary.

"No child of God should ever suffer such horror", Trump said in a statement following the military action.

"While I'm encouraged that the Trump administration has felt compelled to act forcefully in Syria against the Assad regime, I'm gravely concerned that the United States is engaging further militarily in Syria without a well-thought-out, comprehensive plan".

UN Ambassador Nikki Haley said last week that the United States would not focus on removing Assad from power, but shifted her tone after recent chemical attacks on civilians.

"Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children", Mr. Trump said. House Speaker Paul Ryan, the No. 3 US official, said he was among those informed.

Speaking ahead of the strikes, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad should have no role in a future Syria. The strikes also risk thrusting the US deeper into an intractable conflict that his predecessor spent years trying to avoid.

The attack was also in stark contrast to the president's previous stance on Syria, given that he has repeatedly expressed his belief that the US shouldn't get involved by attacking the country.

The death toll is said to be at least 67, according to activist al-Diab, while the United Kingdom -based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported it to be 58.

The governor of Homs has been quoted as saying the attack serves the goals of "armed terrorist groups" and ISIL. On Syrian state television Friday, presenters condemned the "mercenaries of the US and their allies" and praised the Syrian army for protecting the country.

Trump argued last May in a TV interview that he would "go after ISIS big league", but said he did not support targeting Assad's regime, arguing the United States has "bigger problems than Assad". The strike involved almost 60 cruise missiles, which are GPS-guided and are very precise.

Trump said it was in the national security interest of the USA to attack Syria - to stop the use of chemical weapons.

Instead, he signaled the opposite: He argued that the U.S. should remain laser-focused on defeating ISIS and vowed to try and partner with Russian Federation, which has heartily backed Assad's regime, in order to defeat ISIS and bring the conflict to an end.

He said Russian Federation had a "real responsibility to ensure that its client, the Assad regime, complies with global law, complies with the rules of war and does not use chemical weapons".

"The fact is that this is, there is a solemn obligation on Russian Federation too to play its part in bringing this conflict to an end", he said.

Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, who coordinated the campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria during the Obama administration, said that the military strikes could have had a "decisive" impact on the war had they been launched in 2013.

"I can confirm that Australian assets were not involved in this morning's operation", she said.

  • Joanne Flowers