The US hit a Syrian air base with almost 60 Tomahawk missiles early Friday in what President Trump says was a response to a chemical attack on civilians—and what Russia and Syria say was an act of aggression. A spokesman for Vladimir Putin told reporters Friday that Putin considers the strike aggression and a violation of international law, carried out under a "trumped-up" pretext. Russian officials say the strike on the Shayrat airfield has destroyed the chances of US-Russia anti-terror cooperation in Syria, CNN reports. Iran also condemned the attack, calling it "dangerous" and "destructive." US allies, including the UK, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, described the action as an appropriate response to the chemical attack, the AP reports. More on the US strike:
- Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis says Russian forces were present at the base hit by American missiles, but the Russians were informed of the strikes in "multiple conversations," the Guardian reports. "We took extraordinary precautions to not target the area where the Russians are," Davis says.
- Davis said the strike was the result of the Assad regime's conduct, and it "will be the regime's choice if there's any more, and it will be based upon their conduct going forward."
- Syria has denied carrying out a chemical attack, and while Bashar al-Assad's allies claim it would have been a "crazy move" for the regime to provoke the US with such an attack, analysts tell the New York Times that it was in fact part of a deliberate strategy of escalating attacks on civilians. The tactics are designed to demoralize the opposition and demonstrate that the Syrian government can act with impunity, analysts say.
- "Rarely has a policy changed so far and so quickly" and led to such swift action as Trump's position on striking the Assad regime over the last two days, notes Jon Sopel at the BBC. It's not clear, however, whether this was a one-off strike or the start of something more prolonged.
- Sources tell Time that the turning point for Trump, who ran on a nationalist, isolationist "America First" platform, may have been the distressing images of children killed in the attack, some of them the same age as his 10-year-old son, Barron. The sources say Trump was disturbed by the photos and spoke of them repeatedly.
- USA Today notes that Trump's position on striking Syria has changed not just since 2013, when he warned Obama against attacking the country, but since his campaign, when he said: "You're going to end up in World War III over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton."
- Analysts tell the Washington Post that Tomahawk missiles were probably used because they could be launched from US warships, meaning that American pilots didn't have to go anywhere near the target and deal with Russian air defenses.
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