What you need to know about the U.S. missile strike on Syria

It was the toughest direct US action yet in Syria, but Arab political analysts were skeptical it would make much difference in the direction of the conflict in Syria or in efforts to find a political solution.

Rex Tillerson is due to make his first visit to Moscow next week as US secretary of state, an eagerly awaited event in Russian Federation where politicians have been anxious to try to use the change of administration to reboot relations. Trump called on "all civilized nations" to join the U.S.in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria. Nevertheless, Chance pointed out, Russia did not choose to use surface-to-air missiles systems in place in Syria that are "fully capable of intercepting cruise missiles if they so choose to" which, he said, "implies a degree of tacit Russian consent to the strikes".

They were fired from two warships in the Mediterranean Sea, in retaliation for Tuesday's deadly chemical attack, which officials said used chlorine mixed with a nerve agent, possibly sarin. It also played down the effectiveness of the United States raid, saying 23 missiles had hit their targets while it was unclear where 36 others had landed. Their deaths was an affront to humanity.

A spokesman for Vladimir Putin said the strike "deals a significant blow to the Russia-U.S. relations, which are already in a deplorable shape", and poses a "serious obstacle" for creating an worldwide coalition against terrorism.

Syria's opposition has long urged the creation of a no-fly zone or provision of anti-aircraft weapons to rebel groups, and criticized what it saw as US inaction under Barack Obama.

The Kremlin said Vladimir Putin believes the action would damage ties between Moscow and Washington and are a "serious obstacle" to the creation of an global coalition to fight terrorism.

Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Assad's latest attack seemed to be a test of how the new U.S. president would react.

Russian Defense Ministry pledged to beef up Syrian air defenses following the attack. Moscow and Iran also criticized the strike.

Syrian state TV said the U.S. attack was an act of "aggression", according to the Associated Press.

If the Trump administration made a decision to use manned aircraft, the most likely option was naval aircraft. Iran called it a "dangerous" unilateral action that would "strengthen terrorists" and further complicate the conflict.

The statement said the strikes were "short-sighted" and reflect a continuation of policy, regardless of which administration, that is based on targeting and "subjugating people".

Russian Federation also critiqued the US strike's accuracy: Only 23 out of the 59 cruise missiles that were fired at the air base hit their target, Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Friday, citing Russia's data recording equipment. Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey all supported Washington, with Ankara also calling for a no-fly zone in Syria. The Homs governor said on Friday the base was being used to provide air support for operations against Islamic State east of Palmyra.

Also on Friday, Syrian President Bashar Assad called the USA strike "reckless" and "irresponsible" while Syria's army decried the strike as "an outrageous aggression" and declared the US a "partner with ISIS, Nusra, and other terrorist groups", CBS News reported. The law also sought to give the president "leeway to respond to attacks or other emergencies", according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

"So either Russian Federation has been complicit, or Russian Federation has been simply incompetent on its ability to deliver", he said.

Trump had said the chemical attack crossed "many, many lines", and put the blame squarely on Assad's forces.

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said no Russian servicemen were hurt in the missile attack but insisted the strike violated worldwide law.

Eighty-six people including at least 27 children died in the suspected attack in Khan Sheikhun.

The missiles hit early on Friday morning and targeted the base's airstrips, hangars, control tower and ammunition areas, U.S. officials said.

"For the life of me, I can't understand the strategic value of using the chemical weapons in this town", Cook said.

Before that, the United States used them in September 2014 as the USA expanded its air war against militants from Iraq into Syria.

  • Zachary Reyes