US says it is ‘locked and loaded’ to strike if Assad regime uses toxic gas ‘again’
UNITED NATIONS/ WASHINGTON, D.C.
The United States is “locked and loaded” to strike again if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government again uses chemical weapons, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council on April 14.
“We are confident that we have crippled Syria’s chemical weapons program. We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will,” she said.
“If the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” Haley said.
All targets hit successfully: Pentagon
The Pentagon said on April 14 that a joint U.S.-British-French operation against Syria’s regime had “successfully hit every target,” countering assertions from Russia that dozens of missiles were intercepted.
The three allies used ships, a submarine and warplanes to launch a barrage of 105 guided missiles toward three chemical weapons facilities in Syria, officials said, including a research center on the outskirts of Damascus.
The strikes “will significantly impact the Syrian regime’s ability to develop, deploy and use chemical weapons in the future,” said Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, director of the U.S. military’s Joint Staff, though he noted a “residual” element remained.
“I’m not going to say that they are going to be unable to continue to conduct a chemical attack in the future,” he said.
“I suspect, however, they’ll think long and hard about it based on the activities of last night,” he added.
The missiles hit their targets within a minute or two of each other, McKenzie said, striking around 4:00 a.m. Syrian time (0100 GMT).
The overnight operation was the culmination of a week of frenetic planning at the Pentagon, with officials weighing the risks of various targets as President Donald Trump sent out mixed messages on what he wanted to do.
“All the options looked at ways to balance minimizing collateral damage against maximum effect. These three targets seemed to hit the sweet spot and do that,” McKenzie said.
He said there were no known civilian casualties, but noted Syria had fired about 40 unguided surface-to-air missiles, most of which didn’t launch until after the allied strike was over. These missiles may have come down in populated areas, he said.
“When you shoot iron into the air without guidance, it’s going to come down somewhere,” McKenzie said.
The Russian military said that 103 cruise missiles were fired including Tomahawk missiles, but that Syrian air defense systems managed to intercept 71.
McKenzie countered that “the Syrian response was remarkably ineffective in all domains.”
According to U.S. officials, the operation comprised three U.S. destroyers, a French frigate and a U.S. submarine. The vessels were located in the Red Sea, the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean.
The U.S. Air Force fired air-launched cruise missiles from B-1 bombers, and French and British planes also shot cruise missiles toward the targets.
The operation was “precise, overwhelming and effective,” McKenzie said, adding it will set their chemical weapons program back “for years.”
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White reiterated that the United States is only in Syria to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and does not want to get drawn into Syria’s civil war.
“We do not seek conflict in Syria, but we cannot allow such grievous violations of international law,” she said, referring to the suspected chemical attack.
“We successfully hit every target,” she said.
“The strikes were justified, legitimate and proportionate.”