Overnight missile strike on Syrian airbase signifies a dramatic escalation of the conflict

tomahawk

US President Donald Trump took resolute action against Syria last night, on foot of Tuesday’s chemical weapons attack on civilian population.

On presidential orders, two US Destroyers, USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71) stationed on the Eastern Mediterranean launched a coordinated surgical strike at 8:40 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time (4:40 a.m. Zulu Time) on April 7.

The warships fired a barrage of 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) against Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs, believed to be the jump point for the fixed-wing warplanes that deployed the chemical weapons on the town of Khan Sheikhoun on Tuesday, April 4.

The Tomahawk is a long-range cruise missile weapon system that can be equipped with nuclear or conventional warheads. Operated by the United States and the United Kingdom, the Tomahawk can deliver its payload to targets up to 1,350 nmi away.

President Trump later released a pre-recorded statement to the press: “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield where the chemical attack was launched,”

“It is in this vital to the national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligation its obligation under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.”

The missiles targeted aircraft, oil storage facilities, air defense sites, and other key
installations at the airfield. It is understood that while Russian authorities were informed ahead of the action, US top brass did not seek Moscow’s permission for the strike.

According to the Pentagon, the destruction of Shayrat Airfield will severely disrupt the Syrian Airforce’s capacity to deliver further chemical strikes from the site, besides reducing its overall combat capabilities. US officials have called the action ‘a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act.’

Escalation

The strike signifies a dramatic escalation of the Syrian conflict, and the first direct military intervention by US assets.

Moscow’s response to the attack has been swift. Russian officials have called it an ‘act of aggression’ by the US. Furthermore, they said that it ‘delivers a significant blow’ to US-Russia relations.

The two nations have been engaged in a proxy war across Syria from some time, each supplying weapons, military equipment and other assets to their chosen ally.

The US’ goal is to prevent Russia from gaining a foothold in the Middle East, while Russia is engaged in active protection of its foreign assets and facilities in the country. Putin’s government has consistently vetoed any UN resolution against Syria, for example.

Last night’s strike signifies a dramatic stepping up of the ongoing conflict, and it requires careful monitoring by the UN and other overseeing bodies, as it might trigger a Russian military response if Moscow decides to defend Syrian’s interests.

In this scenario, a direct military confrontation between the US and its old adversary could lead to a global conflict.

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