Members of the United Nations Security Council vote against a Russian resolution condemning aggression against Syria by the U.S. and its allies during an emergency meeting on Syria at the U.N. headquarters in New York, on Saturday. Photo: REUTERS
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Western powers say air strikes crippled Syria chemical weapons program

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By Phil Stewart and Tom Perry

Western powers said on Saturday their missile attacks struck at the heart of Syria's chemical weapons program, but the restrained assault appeared unlikely to halt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's progress in the 7-year-old civil war.

The United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles overnight in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago, targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities, including a research and development center in Damascus' Barzeh district and two installations near Homs.

The bombing was the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and his superpower ally Russia, but the three countries said the strikes were limited to Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.

The air attack, denounced by Damascus and its allies as an illegal act of aggression, was unlikely to alter the course of a multisided war that has killed at least half a million people.

U.S. President Donald Trump called the operation a success.

He proclaimed on Twitter: "Mission accomplished," echoing former President George W Bush, whose use of the same phrase in 2003 to describe the U.S. invasion of Iraq was widely ridiculed as violence there dragged on for years.

"We believe that by hitting Barzeh in particular we've attacked the heart of the Syrian chemicals weapon program," U.S. Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said at the Pentagon.

However, McKenzie acknowledged elements of the program remain and he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said at an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council that Trump told her that if Syria uses poisonous gas again, "The United States is locked and loaded."

The Western countries said the strikes were aimed at preventing more Syrian chemical weapons attacks after a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7 killed up to 75 people. They blame Assad's government for the attack.

In Washington, a senior administration official said on Saturday that "while the available information is much greater on the chlorine use, we do have significant information that also points to sarin use" in the attack.

Speaking at a summit in Peru, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence seemed less sure of the use of sarin, saying that Washington may well determine that it was used along with chlorine.

Ten hours after the missiles hit, smoke was still rising from the remains of five destroyed buildings of the Syrian Scientific Research Center in Barzeh, where a Syrian employee said medical components were developed.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Syria released video of the wreckage of a bombed-out research lab, but also of Assad arriving at work as usual, with the caption "Morning of resilience".

Late on Saturday Syria time, a large explosion was heard in a Syrian government-controlled area in a rural region south of Aleppo, according to the Britain-based war monitor The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Observatory said the cause of the explosion was unknown, as well as its target.

Russian and Iranian military help over the past three years has allowed Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

The United States, Britain and France have all participated in the Syrian conflict for years, arming rebels, bombing Islamic State fighters and deploying troops on the ground to fight that group. But they have refrained from targeting Assad's government, apart from a volley of U.S. missiles last year.

Although the Western countries have all said for seven years that Assad must leave power, they held back in the past from striking his government, lacking a wider strategy to defeat him.

Syria and its allies also made clear that they considered the attack a one-off, unlikely to do meaningful harm to Assad.

A senior official in a regional alliance that backs Damascus told Reuters the sites that were targeted had been evacuated days ago thanks to a warning from Russia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the strikes were"unacceptable and lawless."

Syrian state media called them a "flagrant violation of international law," while Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called it a crime and the Western leaders criminals.

Russia had promised to respond to any attack on its ally, but the Pentagon said no Russian air defense systems were used. Syria fired 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles - but only after the Western strikes had ended, the Pentagon said.

"We are confident that all of our missiles reached their targets," McKenzie said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May described the strike as"limited and targeted," with no intention of toppling Assad or intervening more widely in the war.

Washington described the strike targets as a center near Damascus for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons; a chemical weapons storage site near the city of Homs; and another site near Homs that stored chemical weapons equipment and housed a command post.

The Pentagon said there had been chemical weapons agents at one of the targets, and that the strikes had significantly crippled Syria's ability to produce such weapons.

Trump spoke to May and French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss results of the strikes, the leaders' offices said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged all Security Council members to exercise restraint and avoid escalation in Syria, but said allegations of chemical weapons use demand an investigation.

Inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW were due to try to visit Douma on Saturday to inspect the site of the suspected gas attack. Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for their findings.

Russia, whose relations with the West have deteriorated to levels of Cold War-era hostility, has denied any gas attack took place in Douma and even accused Britain of staging it to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

The Western countries took precautions to avoid unexpected conflict with Russia. French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Russians was warned beforehand to avert conflict.

Dmitry Belik, a Russian member of parliament who was in Damascus and witnessed the strikes, told Reuters: "The attack was more of a psychological nature rather than practical. Luckily there are no substantial losses or damages."

In Douma, site of the suspected gas attack, the last buses were due on Saturday to transport out rebels and their families who agreed to surrender the town, state TV reported. That effectively ends all resistance in the suburbs of Damascus known as eastern Ghouta, marking one of the biggest victories for Assad's government of the war.

The Western assault involved more missiles than a U.S. attack last year but struck targets limited to Syria's chemical weapons facilities. The U.S. intervention last year had effectively no impact on the war.

Syria agreed in 2013 to give up its chemical weapons after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds of people in Douma. Damascus is still permitted to have chlorine for civilian use, although its use as a weapon is banned. Allegations of Assad's chlorine use have been frequent during the war although, unlike nerve agents, chlorine did not produce mass casualties as seen last week.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2018.

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

51 Comments
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105 missiles fired and only 3 targets hit.

What..... a...... JOKE!

-9 ( +7 / -16 )

What, they're only supposed to use 3?

8 ( +11 / -3 )

What, they're only supposed to use 3?

Yes, 3 "new, shiny and precise" missiles should be enough, if the taxpayer were to get their money's worth.

Let's see, 3 countries, several ships, over a dozen aircraft and 105 missiles, and yet only 3 targets hit.

Syrians are claiming that they intercepted 71 missiles, including all 12 that were directed at the Al-Dumayr military airport outside of Damascus.

Hilarious meme spreading on facebook among Syrians "Hey America, nice try, insert coin to continue"

-6 ( +7 / -13 )

Our 'friends', the Saudis, have used chemical weapons in Yemen and no one makes a peep.

The idea that bombing Syria will have a positive affect on the Syrians would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. For nearly 20 years we’ve have waged war in the region with nothing having been accomplished, unless the destruction of Iraq and Libya are positive events. We have created failed states and millions of refugees and hundreds of thousands of dead. We had to kill them to save them.

13 ( +16 / -3 )

 for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria a week ago

Innocent until proven guilty doesn't apply in non-democracies I guess.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

Syrians are claiming that they intercepted 71 missiles, including all 12 that were directed at the Al-Dumayr military airport outside of Damascus.

"The Pentagon insisted that no missiles were intercepted by Syrian defences and that the raids were “precise and overwhelming” while claiming the Syrian air defences remained “largely ineffective”.

I would say most of the world understands how the Russian and Syrian troll bots are out in full force now.

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

It's hilarious reading Russians trying to minimize the damage done. That Russian isn't even attempting to deny anymore that chemical weapons were used. Now it's, "105 missiles for 3 targets?!" That Russian doesn't realize that multiple buildings were hit at each of the three sites.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

There are only possible explanation for such an impotent strike is the following:

Trump: Hey Vlad, can you have your buddy Assad empty out a few buildings so I can flush out the current news cycle?

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

"That Russian, That Russian, That Russian,", even Russian have names. And if basic etiquette is available to thee, you better not shame your legal representatives by not using it.

"CrazyJoe", there is an extremely graphic Japanese animation called "Gyakusatsu Kikan", which is a rough critique on the reality of the Earth societies. The message is something along the lines - The developed western (especially America) half keeps on producing wars in the already devastated eastern half, publicly expressing condolences and disgust at all the bloodshed, but enjoying their own "freedom" and consumeric comfort far away from the battlefields, and privately advancing the means to destabilizing and chaos invoking. Because the theory goes - as long as the less developed nations wage wars between themselves, they will leave the stabilized nations out of it, and thus by producing endless conflicts in half the world, the other half would virtually live in peace and prosperity. Which is the ultimate hypocrisy. I do not suggest to view the animated film, but all this "civilized west against terroristic/despotic east" is going in exactly that direction. If not there already.

-9 ( +5 / -14 )

 there is an extremely graphic Japanese animation 

There is a big difference between fantasy and reality.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"That Russian, That Russian, That Russian,", even Russian have names. And if basic etiquette is available to thee, you better not shame your legal representatives by not using it.

I don't know the name of the Russian poster, other than you, who is trying to minimize the strike.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Those missiles cost about 1 million $ each, and that's not including the cost of the personnel,storage, etc after you buy them.

Just saying....

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Trump: Hey Vlad, can you have your buddy Assad empty out a few buildings so I can flush out the current news cycle?

Digging deep on a Sunday morning, aren’t we?

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Those missiles cost about 1 million $ each, and that's not including the cost of the personnel,storage, etc after you buy them.

Agreed.

What's so smart about missiles if it takes 105 just to hit 3 targets.

For just 3 targets, I think 105 dumb bombs would have worked just as well.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

As history shows, "The first casualty of war is the truth"

Crazy Joe and Burning Bush are on the money IMO :)

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Either way, Assad should get the message and hopefully won’t be so dumb as to try and use chemical weapons again.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

I think the only message Assad got was that the mere presence of the S400 in Syria means the US is totally impotent in the region.

The Pentagon has to inform Russia beforehand of any impending strike, so the Syrians can prepare their air defences and evacuate personnel and hardware.

Syrians are cheerfully jubilant in the streets today proclaiming victory for their country. And they're right. America has just proven itself powerless in the region.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

"Gesture bombing" of the most ridiculous kind.

The Russians knew a month ago that a fake chemical attack was being planned in East Ghouta and that the US would use it as an excuse to bomb Syria.

Here’s the story, as reported by Reuters on ****March 13th -

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-russia-usa/russia-says-u-s-plans-to-strike-damascus-pledges-military-response-idUSKCN1GP0TY

"Valery Gerasimov, head of Russia’s General Staff, said Moscow had information that rebels in the enclave of eastern Ghouta were planning to fake a chemical weapons attack against civilians and blame it on the Syrian army.

He said the United States intended to use the fake attack as a pretext to bomb the government quarter in nearby Damascus where he said Russian military advisers, Russian military police and Russian ceasefire monitors were based."

They’re clever, these Russians. Or psychic, perhaps. They knew ****exactly what was going to happen a month before it did.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

There might only be three targets, but they are spacious and fortified. Thus, 105 missiles. I wish they went for three more for 108 and make it like a Japanese fireworks new year celebration.

Get out of Syria. It is not our land.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

A little bit to soon to make this comment. Bush said something similar if you remember.

Trump is a compulsive liar remember.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Assad should get the message and hopefully won’t be so dumb as to try and use chemical weapons again.

I am amazed that there are people out there who still believe (or pretend to believe) that Assad was responsible for the alleged chemical attack.

The only message that anyone will get from all this is that the terrorists can always count on the west for protection in response to a false-flag chemical attack.

Anyway, the US fired 105 expensive rockets, 2/3 of which were intercepted by Syrian air defense systems, which is basically comprised of Soviet-made weapons.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

What's so smart about missiles if it takes 105 just to hit 3 targets.

There were three target areas, each with multiple targets (buildings). A little intellectual honesty goes a long way.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

So Trump sent over some missiles, some buildings were taken out, and people were notified. As I said, Trump will do something that doesn’t change much. Not that I disagree with that.

Now get out of Syria. Let them kill each other if they want to.

On the plus side, it’s always nice to see American hardware in action, especially with the Brits and French next to us. I don’t know much about air strikes, but maybe someone can chime in. Looks like they were using older plans to deliver missiles outside of Syrian airspace and tomahawks from the water.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Burning BushToday 08:49 am JST

Those missiles cost about 1 million $ each, and that's not including the cost of the personnel,storage, etc after you buy them.

Agreed.

What's so smart about missiles if it takes 105 just to hit 3 targets.

For just 3 targets, I think 105 dumb bombs would have worked just as well.

Why is everyone harping on "just 3 targets" without knowing the size, structure and extent of fortification? And 105 "dumb bombs" would have to be dropped. Those 105 missiles were launched from outside Syrian territory.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The only message that anyone will get from all this is that the terrorists can always count on the west for protection in response to a false-flag chemical attack

Well, that... and they have to agree to let the US and the Saudis run an oil pipeline through their country. If Assad agreed to that, the western press would suddenly be singing his praises as an enlightened and chastened new ruler.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I am amazed that there are people out there who still believe (or pretend to believe) that Assad was responsible for the alleged chemical attack.

I’m amazed there are people so utterly convinced they know what’s going on here.

Anyway, the US fired 105 expensive rockets, 2/3 of which were intercepted by Syrian air defense systems, which is basically comprised of Soviet-made weapons.

Why do you believe this? You like the idea?

The track record of telling the truth for all players in this awful mess is shocking.

Get out of the Middle East.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

So Trump sent over some missiles, some buildings were taken out, and people were notified. As I said, Trump will do something that doesn’t change much. Not that I disagree with that.

Now get out of Syria. Let them kill each other if they want to.

On the plus side, it’s always nice to see American hardware in action, especially with the Brits and French next to us. I don’t know much about air strikes, but maybe someone can chime in. Looks like they were using older plans to deliver missiles outside of Syrian airspace and tomahawks from the water.

I don’t agree with you usually, but you’re spot on this one. Totally agree!

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

In all of this, I'm just really interested in Putin's reactions. He is aware that the US and co would have endless plans under their sleeves to counter his side's efforts. He's holding up pretty well considering he is going against the master of the world and its numerous minions and all. People should be thankful that Putin is a pragmatic man because with all stuff thrown at him, it's justified for him to go berzerk and do something crazy (like Khrushchev). He has the means.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Western powers say air strikes crippled Syria chemical weapons program

Hilarious. It's easy to destroy what did not exist in the first place. And interesting to note that the Western powers do everything possible to obstruct the work of WMD inspectors who were going to investigate the "use of chemical weapons" that became the pretext for this strike.

So, 105 missiles for three targets - not underground shelters or bunkers, but buildings - and the the Western armada in the region is already low on ammunition. Just imagine how much more of such missiles would be required in case of war with North Korea with its maze of shelters and bunkers. How Americans are going to destroy them with such miisiles? They'd run out of Tomohawks in several days.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Syrian children killed, Trump orders a major attack. American children killed in their school, Trump does nothing.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

If the US, France and UK cared so much about these gas attacks why not just supply the rebels with gas masks?

More curious is the fact that the rebels aren't even asking for them, even though they seem to be able to get their hands on every other piece of infantry kit.

But we all know what's gonna happen next, in 6 months when the rebels are surrounded again and on the brink of a major defeat, another small scale gas attack will suddenly present itself, complete with soap in mouth videos of kids.

Everybody will call Assad a murderous tyrant but nobody will bother to ask why the gas attacks are so small, why does he just kill 40 when we can just as easily kill 4000?

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

in any case.... I don't understand the 'logic' of attempting to prevent the use of chemical-weapons by bombing the facilities where they are made and stored.... wouldn't that just spread much larger quantities of same?

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Since the attack against the number of trolls and hackers against America have increased 2,000% in the past 24 hours.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

If the US knew that these targeted sites were producing chemical weapons, why did they keep this information a secret until now? Why did they not report these sites to the OPCW/UNSC? It seems incredibly irresponsible to know about sites producing outlawed weapons but say absolutely nothing until after a chemical attack has already taken place. The whole thing seems very questionable.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

105 missiles were indeed fired, but the Pentagon had way more than just 3 buildings in mind.

Most of the missiles were intercepted, but the Pentagon will never admit to that.

Even Al Jazeera which is pro-rebel, is reporting that all 12 missiles directed at Al-Dumayr military airport outside of Damascus were intercepted.

The Russians didn't fire a shot, but they did help out the Syrians will tracking and radar info, which greatly enhanced their capabilities.

The Syrians were able to protect all of their military sites from attack.

Huge celebrations in Damascus today, it's as if they won the World Cup.

-4 ( +6 / -10 )

@jiji Xx

I don't understand the 'logic' of attempting to prevent the use of chemical-weapons by bombing the facilities where they are made and stored.... wouldn't that just spread much larger quantities of same?

It's simple: the people who planned the strike knew perfectly well that there were nothing chemical-weapns-like in these buildings.

@zichi

Since the attack against the number of trolls and hackers against America have increased 2,000% in the past 24 hours

Thanks for the insight. Can you provide a link? And what about trolls and hackers for America?

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

This missile strikes by Western powers on Syria over an alleged use of chemical weapons even before the UN Chemical weapons fact finding team arrived at the site sets a very dangerous precedent.

These three Western powers should be held responsible if other states will imitate what they did and start firing missiles over an alleged but still unverified act.

This also means the UN is already irrelevant .

I bet many will now follow what Kim Jung Un did for protecting his country .

4 ( +8 / -4 )

On the plus side, it’s always nice to see American hardware in action

I have to disagree with you in this one, Super. The only time it's nice to see our hardware in action is during training exercises, otherwise it means we are inflicting death and destruction. While I don't shy away from inflicting death and destruction, I firmly believe it should be a last resort.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

105 missiles were indeed fired, but the Pentagon had way more than just 3 buildings in mind.

Of course it did. The Pentagon never claimed to only have three buildings in mind. See my previous posts and Ossan's post to help understand your logic failure. Then again, Russian trolls don't care about logic, they care about stirring the pot.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

The only time it's nice to see our hardware in action is during training exercises, otherwise it means we are inflicting death and destruction. While I don't shy away from inflicting death and destruction, I firmly believe it should be a last resort.

I do too, but for someone like Assad, it’s a great thing

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

@commanteer Yes, from what i can make out all this war etc. is over a pipeline/s. Either US/Saudi controlled or Russian/Iran controlled. Both of which are proposed to pass through Syria. Assad obviously prefers the Russian version which is why he is made out to be a demon by the West.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

The Pentagon never claimed to only have three buildings in mind.

Okay then, how many targets did they have in mind? What was their actual success rate? I tried checking but the only statements from the Pentagon are ridiculous "100 percent flawless execution" "mission accomplished" chest thumping garbage.

The statements from the Pentagon are reminiscent of good ole Comical Ali from the Iraqi Ministry of propaganda.

Look at the satellite pics on CNN, there were a handful of buildings and you can count the bomb craters in the pictures on one hand.

The Syrians defended their country astonishingly well.

-1 ( +7 / -8 )

105 missiles fired. (US 85, France 12, Britain 8).

Russia didn't fire any but claimed 71 were shot down.

Syria fired 40 missiles at nothing.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Hey everybody... here's an idea... Let's speculate!!!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Final conclusion to the whole thing: great pyrotechnic show, nothing more. Results:

no casualties among Syrian military or civilians

not a single Syrian plane or a helicopter destroyed

zero damage to Syrian airfields, command centers or other significant targets, only several empty buildings blown up

no confrontation with the Russians: allies very carefully avoided even a resemblance of attack on Russian targets, Russian were reciprocally courteous and did not fire at their ships and planes

Wholehearted thanks to the US/UK/French military for the show. Great way to burn more then 100 mil. of taxpayers' money.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Syrian children killed, Trump orders a major attack. American children killed in their school, Trump does nothing.

What's your point? Do you want Trump to bomb the USA?

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I've noticed a great difference between JapanToday (Mostly American/Canadian and British expats) and the broader European news outlets.

Comment sections here are mostly pro-USA and anti-Russia, whilst on an increased amount of European news outlets people demand proof, and are increasingly hostile towards the US/UK/FR attacks.

If this keeps going, the middle east might not soon be the only unsafe travel destination.

I think it was a couple of years ago I read about an American who got acid thrown in his face I think in Spain or Italy, just for being an American.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I've noticed a great difference between JapanToday (Mostly American/Canadian and British expats)

I've been posting here a number of years, and seen the nationalities people post, and there don't seem to be a lot of American nor Canadian posters. Mostly Europeans, (including British).

Anyways, I have no idea if Russia was responsible for what happened in Syria, but they only have themselves to blame if people think they were, based on their past actions in the past. If they don't want to be blamed for everything, they should stop doing things that make people think it's more likely they have done something than not.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Burning Bush - 105 missiles fired and only 3 targets hit.

What..... a...... JOKE!

Did you read the article? Only 3 areas were targeted. The result is that 3 targets were destroyed.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The release of poison gas by any side has not been proven thus the rationale for a retaliatory bombing is absent.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Proven by whom? Syria? Russia?

G.B., France, and the U.S were convinced that Assad had, once again, used chemical weapons against his own people. Now Assad doesn't have his chemical weapons factories to play with any more.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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