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The United States has responded to the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons with targeted airstrikes. Nearly 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired at Al Shayrat airfield in Syria on Thursday night, according to the Pentagon.
“Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” President Donald Trump said in remarks at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
He continued: "Years of previous attempts at changing [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s] behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies."
President Trump's order to attack Syria is a stark departure from his previous stance. Back in 2013, after Assad used chemical weapons and crossed former President Barack Obama's "red line," Mr. Trump tweeted the following:
AGAIN, TO OUR VERY FOOLISH LEADER, DO NOT ATTACK SYRIA - IF YOU DO MANY VERY BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN & FROM THAT FIGHT THE U.S. GETS NOTHING!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2013
The Defense Department says that there is no dispute "that Syria used banned chemical weapons of the people of Idlib," adding that the strike was "a proportional response to Assad's heinous act."
Is the United States now at war with the Assad regime? Missy Ryan, a Washington Post correspondent covering the Pentagon, military issues, and national security, weighs in.
For a look back at the historical use of the chemical weapons, we turn to John Gilbert, a senior science fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He established the chemical and biological operations division in the U.S. On-Site Inspection Agency, and has training in how to respond to chemical weapons, including sarin gas.