The US, UK and France launched joint strikes against multiple government targets in Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack.
Here are their full statements on the action.
US President Donald Trump
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.
Tonight, I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action.
One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force.
Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians -- this time, in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre 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.
Following the horrors of World War I a century ago, civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare. Chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous not only because they inflict gruesome suffering, but because even small amounts can unleash widespread devastation.
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.
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 must decide if it will continue down this dark path, or if it will join with civilized nations as a force for stability and peace. Hopefully, someday we'll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not.
I will say this: The United States has a lot to offer, with the greatest and most powerful economy in the history of the world.
In Syria, the United States — with but a small force being used to eliminate what is left of ISIS -- is doing what is necessary to protect the American people. Over the last year, nearly 100 percent of the territory once controlled by the so-called ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has been liberated and eliminated.
The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East. We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment, and all of the anti-ISIS effort. Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and others can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS.
America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances. As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home. And great warriors they are.
Looking around our very troubled world, Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil, or act everywhere there is tyranny.
No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It's a troubled place. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.
In the last century, we looked straight into the darkest places of the human soul. We saw the anguish that can be unleashed and the evil that can take hold. By the end of the World War I, more than one million people had been killed or injured by chemical weapons. We never want to see that ghastly specter return.
So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.
Tonight, I ask all Americans to say a prayer for our noble warriors and our allies as they carry out their missions.
We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria. We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace.
And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.
Thank you, and goodnight. Thank you.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May
This evening I have authorised British armed forces to conduct coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical-weapons capability and deter their use. We are acting together with our American and French allies.
In Douma, last Saturday a chemical weapons attack killed up to 75 people, including young children, in circumstances of pure horror. The fact of this attack should surprise no one. The Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way.
And a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack. This persistent pattern of behavior must be stopped — not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons. We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this.
But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted. Even this week the Russians vetoed a Resolution at the U.N. Security Council which would have established an independent investigation into the Douma attack. So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. 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.
At this time, my thoughts are with our brave British servicemen and women — and our French and American partners — who are carrying out their duty with the greatest professionalism. The speed with which we are acting is essential in cooperating with our partners to alleviate further humanitarian suffering and to maintain the vital security of our operations. This is the first time as Prime Minister that I have had to take the decision to commit our armed forces in combat — and it is not a decision I have taken lightly.
I have done so because I judge this action to be in Britain’s national interest. We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalized — within Syria, on the streets of the U.K., or anywhere else in our world. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none. History teaches us that the international community must defend the global rules and standards that keep us all safe. That is what our country has always done. And what we will continue to do.
Last night British, French and American armed forces conducted coordinated and targeted strikes to degrade the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deter their use.
For the UK’s part four RAF Tornado GR 4’s launched storm shadow missiles at a military facility some 15 miles west of Homs, where the regime is assessed to keep chemical weapons in breach of Syria’s obligations under the chemical weapons convention.
While the full assessment of the strike is ongoing, we are confident of its success. Let me set out why we have taken this action. Last Saturday up to 75 people, including young children, were killed in a despicable and barbaric attack in Douma, with as many as 500 further casualties. We have worked with our allies to establish what happened. And all the indications are that this was a chemical weapons attack. We have seen the harrowing images of men, women and children lying dead with foam in their mouths.
These were innocent families who, at the time this chemical weapon was unleashed, were seeking shelter underground, in basements. First-hand accounts from NGOs and aid workers have detailed the most horrific suffering, including burns to the eyes, suffocation and skin discolouration, with a chlorine-like odour surrounding the victims. And the World Health Organization has received reports that hundreds of patients arrived at Syrian health facilities on Saturday night with “signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”. We are also clear about who was responsible for this atrocity. A significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack.
I cannot tell you everything. But let me give an example of some of the evidence that leads us to this conclusion. Open source accounts allege that a barrel bomb was used to deliver the chemicals. Multiple open source reports claim that a regime helicopter was observed above the city of Douma on the evening of 7 April. The opposition does not operate helicopters or use barrel bombs. And reliable intelligence indicates that Syrian military officials coordinated what appears to be the use of chlorine in Douma on 7 April. No other group could have carried out this attack. Indeed, Daesh [Islamic State] for example does not even have a presence in Douma. And the fact of this attack should surprise no one.
We know that the Syrian regime has an utterly abhorrent record of using chemical weapons against its own people. On 21 August 2013 over 800 people were killed and thousands more injured in a chemical attack also in Ghouta. There were 14 further smaller scale chemical attacks prior to that summer. At Khan Shaykhun on 4 April last year, the Syrian regime used sarin against its people killing around 100 with a further 500 casualties. And based on the regime’s persistent pattern of behaviour and the cumulative analysis of specific incidents we judge it highly likely both that the Syrian regime has continued to use chemical weapons since then, and will continue to do so.
This must be stopped. We have sought to do so using every possible diplomatic channel. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted both on the ground and in the United Nations. Following the sarin attack in eastern Damascus back in August 2013, the Syrian regime committed to dismantle its chemical weapon programme – and Russia promised to ensure that Syria did this, overseen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. But these commitments have not been met. A recent report from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has said that Syria’s declaration of its former chemical weapons programme is incomplete. This indicates that it continues to retain undeclared stocks of nerve agent or precursor chemicals – and is likely to be continuing with some chemical weapons production.
The OPCW inspectors have investigated previous attacks and on four occasions decided that the regime was indeed responsible. And on each occasion when we have seen every sign of chemical weapons being used, any attempt to hold the perpetrators to account has been blocked by Russia at the UN security council, with six such vetoes since the start of 2017. Just this week, the Russians vetoed a draft resolution that would have established an independent investigation into this latest attack – even making the grotesque and absurd claim that it was “staged” by Britain. So we have no choice but to conclude that diplomatic action on its own will not be any more effective in the future than it has been in the past.
Over the last week the UK government has been working intensively with our international partners to build the evidence picture, and to consider what action we need to take to prevent and deter future humanitarian catastrophes caused by chemical weapons attacks. When the cabinet met on Thursday we considered the advice of the attorney general, the national security adviser and the chief of the defence staff – and we were updated on the latest assessment and intelligence picture. And based on this advice we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action, together with our closest allies, to alleviate further humanitarian suffering by degrading the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons capability and deterring their use.
This was not about interfering in a civil war. And it was not about regime change. As I discussed with President Trump and President Macron, it was a limited, targeted and effective strike with clear boundaries that expressly sought to avoid escalation and did everything possible to prevent civilian casualties. Together we have hit a specific and limited set of targets. They were a chemical weapons storage and production facility, a key chemical weapons research centre and a military bunker involved in chemical weapons attacks. Hitting these targets with the force that we have deployed will significantly degrade the Syrian regime’s ability to research, develop and deploy chemical weapons.
A year ago, after the atrocity at Khan Shaykhun, the US conducted a strike on the airfield from which the attack took place. But Assad and his regime hasn’t stopped their use of chemical weapons. So last night’s strikes by the US, UK and France were significantly larger than the US action a year ago and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime’s capability and willingness to use chemical weapons. And this collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons. I also want to be clear that this military action to deter the use of chemical weapons does not stand alone. We must remain committed to resolving the conflict at large.
The best hope for the Syrian people remains a political solution. We need all partners – especially the regime and its backers – to enable humanitarian access to those in desperate need. And the UK will continue to strive for both. But these strikes are about deterring the barbaric use of chemical weapons in Syria and beyond. And so to achieve this there must also be a wider diplomatic effort – including the full range of political and economic levers – to strengthen the global norms prohibiting the use of chemical weapons which have stood for nearly a century.
Although of a much lower order of magnitude, the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK in recent weeks is part of a pattern of disregard for these norms. So 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. There is no graver decision for a prime minister than to commit our forces to combat – and this is the first time that I have had to do so. As always, they have served our country with the greatest professionalism and bravery – and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We would have preferred an alternative path. But on this occasion there is none.
We cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised – either within Syria, on the streets of the UK or elsewhere. We must reinstate the global consensus that chemical weapons cannot be used. This action is absolutely in Britain’s national interest. The lesson of history is that when the global rules and standards that keep us safe come under threat – we must take a stand and defend them. That is what our country has always done. And that is what we will continue to do.
French President Emmanuel Macron
Dozens of men, women and children were massacred in Douma on Saturday, 7 April using chemical weapons, in total violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
There is no doubt as to the facts and to the responsibility of the Syrian regime.
The red line declared by France in May 2017 has been crossed.
Tonight, I have therefore ordered the French armed forces to intervene, as part of an international operation conducted in coalition with the United States of America and the United Kingdom against the clandestine chemical weapons arsenal of the Syrian regime.
Our response has been limited to the Syrian regime’s facilities enabling the production and employment of chemical weapons.
We cannot tolerate the normalization of the employment of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security. That is the meaning of the initiatives constantly promoted by France at the United Nations Security Council.
France and its partners will today resume their efforts at the United Nations to enable the creation of an international mechanism to establish responsibility, prevent impunity and obstruct any temptation on the part of the Syrian regime to repeat these acts.
Since May 2017, France’s priorities in Syria have been constant: finishing the fight against Daesh, enabling humanitarian assistance to civilian populations, and triggering collective momentum to bring about a peaceful settlement of the conflict so that peace can return to Syria and to ensure the region’s stability.
I will pursue these priorities with determination in the coming days and weeks.
In accordance with Article 35, paragraph 2 of the French Constitution, Parliament will be informed and a parliamentary debate will be organized following this decision to order the intervention of our armed forces abroad.