Early Friday morning (3:45am local Syrian time) the United States launched an attack on a Syrian airbase. President Donald Trump ordered the attack with the statement:
"Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air field in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched, it is in this vital national security of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
The attack goes against what Trump once believed as he tweeted back in 2013 that he didn't think the U.S. should be involved in the Syrian conflict. However, things changed rapidly when Assad used banned chemical weapons to attack civilians. The chemical attack on civilians went against the Chemical Weapons Convention and the urging from the UN Security Council. Assad hasn't changed and President Trump couldn't sit idly by any longer.
Big Time Policy Shift
When President Trump made the decision to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian airbase, he showed his change in position on the matter. During his campaign for the presidency, Trump opposed any action against the Syrian President's regime. However, the president was also shown to be visibly moved by the pictures he was shown of the chemical weapons attack used by Assad.
The Actual Attack on Syria
At 8:45pm EST (3:45am local Syrian time) the United States military launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Syrian airbase believed to be the source of the chemical weapons attack. Targets included aircraft shelters, logistical storage, aircraft, petroleum storage, air defense systems and ammunition supply bunkers. The missiles were fired from two warships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Reports have shown the Shayrat airbase was almost completely destroyed by the large warheads. Images surfaced early Friday morning showing damage to a fuel depot, an air defense base, dozens of hangars and about 20 Syrian jets. No Russian aircrafts were at the airbase.
Reports have also stated that seven Syrian soldiers were killed with another nine wounded. Sources believe between 12 and 100 Russian military personnel were at the base at the time of the attack. The U.S. did take precautions to avoid hitting the Russian barracks.
The U.S. is still assessing the results from the attack and homes that the Syrian President has learned a lesson. Whether future attacks are launched all depends on how the Syrian President responds to this attack.
The Tomahawk "E" missiles were used for the attack. These missiles can carry up to 1,000-pound warheads and they are known as the Echo version. The latest models use two-way satellite communications allowing the flight path to be reprogrammed, if necessary.
These missiles have a range of 800 to 1,500 miles and can move at speeds of 550 miles per hour. They also fly close enough to the ground to avoid radar. Tomahawk Missiles measure about 20 feet 6 inches with a booster and about 10 feet 3 inches without a booster.
No Change in Policy towards Syria
A briefing held on Thursday night with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson showed that the president's policy and attitude towards Syria hasn't changed. Even with this being the first time the U.S. has taken military action against the Syrian government, Tillerson stated, "there has been no change in that status." He also made it clear that this does demonstrate the willingness of the president to act when another government crossed the line.
How We Got Here with Syria
Syria has been in the midst of a civil war for about six years due to avoid against the regime of President Bashar Assad. Assad's regime has been described as very brutal and caused an uprising within the country. About half a million Syrians has been killed and millions are homeless due to the civil war.
Due to the actions of President Assad, many of the world's major powers have joined the conflict including Russia, Iran, Turkey and the United States. Saudi Arabia has even backed fighters trying to overthrow Assad.
It all started in March of 2011 when Assad's agents tortured a group of boys after they created graffiti supporting the Arab Spring, a group of uprisers against the regime. Protests broke out, which led to more killing from Assad's agents. Some of Assad's officers did defect and join opposing forces, as well.
President Obama and his administration called for President Assad to step down, but that didn't happen. Obama didn't support the rebels and there wasn't any clear attitude from the Obama administration on the issue.
On the other hand, Iran and Russia threw their support behind Assad, a long-time ally of both. The rebellion continued to spread and Assad started to lose control of large territories, especially in the north.
ISIS Becomes Real
During the chaos, many terrorists joined including al-Qaeda and an offshoot calling itself the Islamic State, ISIS or ISIL. This group started to grow as they battled against Assad's forces. By 2014, ISIS started to take over areas, such as Raqqa and the oil region of Deir ez-Zor. They became the most powerful force battling against Assad.
Due to ISIS becoming involved and other terrorist joining the battle, the United States responded. In August of 2014, the U.S. bombed ISIS in Iraq to keep the group from expanding. Targets in Syria were struck by U.S. warplanes just one month later. Today, 5,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Iraq to train Iraqi forces and 500 more are in Syrian to help support the Kurdish and Arab forces against ISIS.
Iran and Russia Bailed Out Assad
If the Russian and Iran government didn't help out in September of 2015, Assad may have been defeated. His agents were about to lose territory when Russians intervened and helped with bombs and Iran provides ground forces. Since, Russian-backed Syrian forces have seized important territories including Aleppo, one of the largest cities in the country.
This all happened before the recent chemical attack, which led to the U.S. strike on Syria. The gas attack led to at least 85 deaths with 23 children and 16 women included. More than 350 were wounded and this was the last straw for President Trump.
It has been a long civil war with plenty of countries and groups getting involved. The conflict has led to 6.3 million people displaced inside Syria and another 13.5 million in need of humanitarian assistance.