In response to an alleged chemical gas attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that killed at least 80 people in the rebel-held city of Khan Sheikhoun, Donald Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that “something should happen.”
Well Thursday night, something did in fact happen. The United States ended up firing at least 50 cruise missiles at the Ash Sha’irat airfield in Syria, killing at least 7 people. It is believed that the chemical attacks originated from this airfield.
Why is this significant? Well, this isn’t the first time that this has happened. Back in September 2013, Syria did use chemical weapons on its own citizens as part of their ongoing civil war. In response, Barack Obama went on national television and threatened to hit Syria with a “targeted military strike.” But soon after, it was Russia who proposed that as an alternative, the Syrian government would surrender their chemical weapons — and it worked. By the next year, Syria surrendered 1,300 tons of chemical weapons and joined the Chemical Weapons Convention in order to avoid retaliatory airstrikes. In addition, Assad’s Syrian government signed a treaty barring them from using chemical weapons in the future.
The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons, while Russia said that there is no clear evidence that Syria conducted the attack and threatened to veto a UN security resolution condemning the attack. There is no debate that the Assad regime has brutally murdered thousands upon thousands of its own citizens, and US officials are convinced that Assad’s regime did, in fact, violate their treaty against using chemical weapons.
We do not yet know what the outcome of these missile strikes will lead to. However, recent history suggests that the United States getting heavily involved in conflicts in the Middle East typically has tragic outcomes and consequences. Russian president Vladimir Putin came out publicly condemning Trump’s missile strike, calling it a violation of international law. The actual legality of this whole thing is unclear at the moment. But one of the big fears is the US becoming even further involved in the war, a fear that Donald Trump seemed to have in 2013 when Barack Obama threatened an attack similar to the one Trump conducted on Thursday night.