From the last Morning Jolt of the week, and the last one written by Jim until April 17:
Bashir Assad and the Syrian Air Force Had a Blast Thursday Night
It’s like Christmas, but instead of presents, Santa Claus is delivering Tomahawk missiles to the folks on his naughty list.
On the orders of President Donald Trump, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from US warships in the eastern Mediterranean. The missiles were directed at the Shayrat airfield, believed by the US to be the base for warplanes that carried out the chemical attack on a rebel-held town in Idlib on Tuesday.
Syria said six people were killed in the strike.
Pentagon Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis:
The strike was conducted using Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. A total of 59 TLAMs targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars. As always, the U.S. took extraordinary measures to avoid civilian casualties and to comply with the Law of Armed Conflict. Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield.
The strike was a proportional response to Assad’s heinous act. Shayrat Airfield was used to store chemical weapons and Syrian air forces. The U.S. intelligence community assesses that aircraft from Shayrat conducted the chemical weapons attack on April 4. The strike was intended to deter the regime from using chemical weapons again.
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield.
We are assessing the results of the strike. Initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian Government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons. use of chemical weapons against innocent people will not be tolerated.
One of my big disagreements with Trump during the primary was his quasi-isolationist views, although in fairness, Trump’s foreign policy comments could be contradictory, boasting that he opposed the Iraq War from the beginning one moment and insisting “we should take the oil” the next. Sometimes the would argue “let Russia take care of ISIS” and sometimes he would pledge to “bomb the s*** out of them.”
This morning, we finally have one big change to U.S. foreign policy that you have heard me yearning for, month after month: There is now a consequence to using chemical weapons. Not an all-out war, not an invasion, not even a full effort at regime change, just… consequences. And just maybe, the Syrian military will decide to leave the sarin and the chlorine on the shelf in the next battle.
Oh, and we ended up getting much closer to a Marco Rubio foreign policy than anyone ever expected.
“Tonight’s actions show that the days of being able to act with impunity are over when it comes to Bashar al-Assad,” Rubio said. “There is now an American President prepared to do what it takes to ensure that [Assad] does not have the capability, or that his capability to conduct these sort of heinous war crimes is diminished and that he’s held accountable.”
An interesting point from Andrew Exum:
Poor John Kerry was left to bring about [Bashir Assad’s exit] in the last years of the administration with very few carrots and no sticks at his disposal. President Obama did not want to strike the regime, understandably uneasy about where such strikes might lead and not wanting to take everyone’s eye off the ball with respect to the Islamic State.
That did not stop the administration from pursuing quixotic and ultimately humiliating negotiations with the Russians throughout 2016. With the use of force off the table, we were forced to engage with the Russians over the fate of East Aleppo, in particular, as if the Russians were genuine partners for peace and not in fact enabling the very deliberate, brutal regime offensive that brought the last stronghold of the moderate opposition in Syria to its knees. We initially offered up carrots—such as increased military and intelligence cooperation with the Russians against Islamist extremists—if they would help us remove Bashar al-Assad from power, but by the end, we were practically begging the Russians to just let humanitarian aid shipments into East Aleppo. As one of the U.S. negotiators, I found the whole experience degrading.
You know what’s degraded now? Shayrat Airfield.