As the smoke clears, political assessments are coming in on Friday from President Donald Trump’s missile attack on Syria.
The president authorized the launch of more than 50 Tomahawk missiles from U.S. Navy ships Thursday night that targeted Syrian military sites, which Syria said killed six people. It was in response to a chemical weapons attacks on civilians in Syria blamed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Speaking from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, the president denounced Assad for the chemical attack that “choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children.”
He added: “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”
The New York Times said Russia “reacted harshly” on Friday to Trump’s strikes on Syria. Assad is a close ally of Moscow, which denies that the dictator used chemical weapons on his own people.
However, Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs analyst, told The Times that Moscow will publicly denounce the strikes, “but everybody understands that this is just a symbolic act meant for Trump to look different from Obama.”
Still, there could be consequences for the American-led coalition that continues to launch airstrikes on the Islamic State in Syria.
Andrew Exum, a former senior defense official in the Obama administration, told the Washington Post that Russian anti-aircraft systems have ignore the coalition’s warplanes flying over Syria as long as they focused on attacking ISIS. It’s unclear what will happen in the aftermath of Trump’s missile strikes on the Syrian government.
“Both the Syrians and Russians can act as a spoiler. American and coalition aircraft have flown around and through their air defense systems for the last two years. If you launched a strike against the regime, it would have every excuse to start lighting up coalition planes with antiaircraft systems,” Exum stated.
Meanwhile, traditional allies overseas applauded the president.
The United Kingdom said it “fully supports” the American attack on Syria, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported. Britain’s defense secretary, Michael Fallon, said the strike was “limited” and “wholly appropriate,” according to the BBC.
Back home, some of Trump’s sharpest foreign policy critics in his party are backing the president. The Post reported:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said, “Tonight’s actions show the days of being able to attack with impunity when it comes to Assad are over.”
In the background, there are questions about the legality of the missile strike. The Guardian noted that neither the U.S. Congress nor the United Nations authorized Trump’s attack. International law scholar Mary Ellen O’Connell, of the University of Notre Dame, told the Guardian that there is no legal basis for military action.
“Under international law, he has zero right to attack Assad,” she told Guardian. “It would be a reprisal attack. You won’t find any international law specialists who will find a legal right to carry out a reprisal.”
In light of that and other concerns, some Democrats and Republicans are urging Trump to consult with Congress about military action in Syria, The Hill reported.
And on the far right, many of Trump’s most faithful supporters are turning on him for breaking a promise to not get the United States entangled in Syria’s civil war, according to The Times.
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