Or, in the Israeli vernacular, Kol Hakavod!
It was Shabbat here when President Trump announced the strike on Syria we had been waiting for; I did not access the news until Saturday evening.
Friday evening, 9:00 E.T., (4:00 AM Saturday morning here), the president spoke to the nation.
“My fellow Americans, a short time ago, I ordered the United States Armed Forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both…”
He explained that the recent attack in Douma was “a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.
“The evil and the despicable attack left mothers and fathers, infants and children, thrashing in pain and gasping for air. These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead…
“The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power — military, economic and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”
While initiated and led by the Americans, it is encouraging that France and Great Britain joined in a coalition, and it is to Trump’s credit that he brought them along using direct personal persuasion.
President Emmanuel Macron said that a red line had been crossed, and that “We cannot tolerate the normalization of the use of chemical weapons.”
Prime Minister May followed a bit hesitantly, saying the action was both “right and legal.”
On Saturday morning, Joint Staff Director Lt. General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. described the operation as “precise, overwhelming and effective.”
You can see his briefing here:
The capability of Syria to produce and utilize chemical weaponry has been seriously degraded.
In all, 103 missiles of different types were launched at three significant sites: chemical weapons stockpiles; a research, development and testing facility; and a command post. The launching was done from naval vessels—including one US submarine—in the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, and the Persian Gulf. In addition, five different fighter planes were utilized, included the US B-1, the British Tornado and the French Mirage.
The sites, said General McKenzie, were selected in part to minimize civilian damage.
I will note, in addition, that because Trump announced his intentions days before the strike, no military personnel were hit either: Syria had cleared all military personnel from the gas installations.
At the time that he spoke this distressed me, and I wished that the president would remain silent. But on reflection, I see it differently. The goal was destruction of infrastructure and supplies. It might (“might” – I cannot be certain) have been the intent of the US to have Syria clear the sites of personnel, because it was important to avoid hitting Russian personnel. Hitting Russians would have generated an escalation and a complication.
Here you see the Syrian Center for Scientific Research on the outskirts of Damascus:
Syria made claims regarding its utilization of anti-aircraft weaponry to take down attacking aircraft, and indeed, while some 40 missiles were launched, reports are that the Syrians inflicted zero damage on the allied forces.
There are multiple reasons to applaud this proportionate and moral action.
Following the observance of Yom Hashoah by less than two days, this strike, taken to prevent a regime from gassing civilians, brings hope for a more decent world. ~~~~~~~~~~
After the strike, which took some 70 minutes, the president tweeted:
“A perfectly executed strike last night. Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley later observed, however, that the US was “locked and loaded” and prepared to do further strikes, should Assad attempt to use gas again. I would say that Assad has good reason to believe her.
We seriously delude ourselves, however, if we think Assad will turn meek after this. His capacity to produce and use chemical weapons has been seriously weakened (although not fully destroyed). His fighting capacity remains intact. There are suggestions that it may be time for the US to take out his air force next. We’ll see.
Once Trump spoke about striking Syria, it seemed to me imperative that he should do so. This is in stark contrast to what Obama did, when he threatened to strike and then backed off, allowing Russia to “handle” the dismantling of Syria’s chemical weapons capability.
Later Obama and members of his administration bragged that it had been possible to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons via diplomacy without the use of force. In 2016, in an address he gave, Obama said: “Just think about what we’ve done these last eight years without firing a shot…We’ve eliminated Syria’s declared chemical weapons program.”
(See Martin Sherman: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/21987).
It is my hope that Obama supporters and Democrats across the board might begin to recognize what damage Obama wrought in this part of the world.
It is with solid reason that I applaud Trump.
I voice here my disgust at the despicable attempts by Trump’s opponents to take him down at all cost – as if all he does is no good and anything and everything they might do to defeat him is legitimate. Please see the comments by Alan Dershowitz regarding the raid on the offices of Trump’s private lawyer.
Trump addressed the proclivity of certain groups to find fault with him, and refrain from offering praise, in a tweet he put out today:
The mission was “so perfectly carried out, with such precision, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term ‘Mission Accomplished.’
“I knew they would seize on this but felt it is such a great Military term, it should be brought back. Use often!”
In the last few days, Trump not only acted, he spoke directly and forcefully (emphasis added):
“I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.
“To Iran and to Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?
“The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep. No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.
“In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad’s recent attack — and today’s response — are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise.”
Russia was sufficiently incensed by the strike against its client Syria that it brought a resolution to the UN Security Council condemning the “aggression.” It fizzled, as only three of the Council’s 15 members — Russia, China and Bolivia — voted for it.
Iran also criticized the “aggression’ against Syria.
Here in Israel, we watch the Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria intently, and with the greatest of concern. It is to be fervently hoped that the US will not act precipitously in withdrawing from Syria under current circumstances. Trump had spoken of withdrawal once the goal of eliminating ISIS in the region was accomplished, but ISIS is hardly the only malevolent force in Syria to contend with.
While Netanyahu has voice wholehearted support for the attack, reportedly, in some quarters in Israel there is concern that Trump might feel that he has now done what was needed and is thus able to pull out.
Interestingly, I had the opposite “gut” reaction: Iran and Russia now see that Trump means what he says and is a force to contend with. That’s one of the things that pleased me about the strike: its potential deterrence value.
In February, a stealth drone was launched by Iran from a base in Syria into Israeli airspace. We detected it and took it down. There was much speculation regarding the nature of this drone – which might, for example, have been intended for surveillance purposes.
At the time, Israel bombed the T-4 military base in Syria, operated by Iran, from which the drone had been launched.
Last Monday, that base was attacked again and several Iranians killed. Israel did not acknowledge the strike directly, but came close. On Yom Hashoah, on Thursday, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned Iran, “Don’t test the resolve of the State of Israel.”
On Friday, Israel revealed that the drone carried a payload of explosives sufficient to do damage. It is not known what the intended target in Israel was.
The Times of Israel reports that:
“The alleged Israeli attack this week on the base from which the drone was dispatched is understood to have targeted Iran’s entire drone weapons system at the Syrian base.”
The news about the Friday violence fomented by Palestinian Arabs at the fence between Gaza and Israel has taken a backseat this week to the attack on Syria.
What I will say in brief is that, while it was ugly, the “protest” is diminishing. There were Palestinian flags hoisted and Israeli flags burned along with some tires, firebombs tossed, and attempts made to breach the fence. There was a kite launched with a firebomb attached, and an explosive set off at the fence.
But the crowd was estimated at 10,000, compared to 30,000 two weeks ago and 20,000 last week. Reports are of hundreds injured but only one person killed.
The IDF has revealed that it has destroyed a terror tunnel that extended tens of meters inside Israel, near the northern Gaza Strip, close to the Israeli community of Nahal Oz. It passed under the border fence in the area where protestors are active – the violence was intended to serve as a cover for the construction activity.
It was the “longest and deepest” tunnel inside of Israel discovered to date. The army had been monitoring the construction of this tunnel, which was exposed with the assistance of new technologies. Once it was inside Israeli territory, and had begun moving upward towards construction of an exit inside of Israel, action was taken to block it.
This tunnel was connected to a “kilometers long” network of tunnel passages inside of Gaza. Instead of blowing it up, the IDF used sealing material that was expected “to extend deep into the underground network on the Gaza side, rendering sections of connecting tunnels useless.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.