(This post has been updated throughout.)
President Donald Trump tonight announced military strikes in Syria in response to the government's alleged use of chemical weapons against Douma. The U.S. is working in coordination with France and the United Kingdom.
Referencing the U.S. airstrike against Syria a year ago under a similar trigger, Trump said of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, "These are not the actions of a man. These are the crimes of a monster."
Trump said that the purpose of the strike was to provide a strong deterrent to try to stop future use of chemical weapons and made it clear that this could be a sustained set of strikes and military actions, not just another barrage of missiles as we saw last year.
Trump also called out Russia and Iran for propping up Assad, asking "What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?"
In a press briefing at 10 p.m. Defense Secretary James Mattis explained that the strike was justified as an important national interest in preventing the further use of chemical weapons. At the briefing military officials identified three targets that had been struck: A scientific research center in Damascus they believe was used to develop chemical weapons; a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs; and another nearby storage facility and Syrian military command post. Mattis said when the targets were selected, they had "gone through great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties."
Mattis further said that this was a "one-time shot" against these targets and destroyed important infrastructure Syria needed for chemical weapons manufacturing that would set them back for years. He said there appeared to be no losses among U.S. troops.
More coverage here. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) earlier today tweeted that 84 lawmakers sent the president a letter warning him that he couldn't engage in military strikes against Syria without congressional authorization:
Today, @RepZoeLofgren @RepBarbaraLee @RepThomasMassie and I sent a bipartisan letter to @POTUS—cosigned by 84 of our colleagues—demanding that the president not commence offensive military action against Syria without congressional approval, as the Constitution requires. pic.twitter.com/53awn6Fizh— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 14, 2018
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May put out a statement making it clear her military involvement is not about regime change, but about deterring Syria from any further chemical weapon use:
This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. It is about a limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region and that does everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. And while this action is specifically about deterring the Syrian Regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity.
French President Emmanuel Macron also stated that the military strike were limited to stopping Syria's capacity to create and use chemical weapons.
Photo Credit: Mark Wilson/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom