LONDON, ENGLAND – APRIL 14: British Prime Minister Theresa May attends a press conference at 10 Downing Street on April 14, 2018 in London, England. Early this morning the RAF launched four Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s carrying Storm Shadow missiles which were used to hit a military facility in Syria, as part of a coordinated joint action with the US and France, striking Syrian installations involved in the use of chemical weapons. (Photo by Simon Dawson/ WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The US, the UK and France hit the Syrian government with airstrikes late on Friday and early on Saturday. The US military said that three chemical weapons facilities and storage sites in and around the Syrian capital Damascus were targeted.
Announcing the strikes on Syria, President Trump was robust in a televised address on Friday evening:
“The nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality… The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons.”
Theresa May spoke in Downing Street on Saturday morning. She said the strikes were “right and legal.”
“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change,” she said. “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.”
The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who as far as I can see has never favoured Western military action, ever, questioned the legality of the operation.
The question now is whether that is it, and whether the West will regard this action as sufficient to send a message. There is the added bonus that – so far – it seems nothing was misdirected that might have created the excuse for further escalation.
Matthew Parris puts it well in The Times this weekend. Hitting Syria is a bad idea, but we still have to do it, he says.
Russia claimed, of course, that it had knocked out many of the missiles fired. It also said in a statement that the action will not go unpunished, although the Kremlin’s statements have become so weird of late (“Britain plotted the chemical attack in Salisbury and the gas attack in Douma the other night”) that it is worth treating anything said by the Russian government in the current climate as being at best a lie.
Incidentally, we have to stop taking the Russian regime at its own estimation. Russia is a massive country with a small GDP, hooked on the idea of Russian invincibility , claims of its God-given special status and a series of self-pitying nationalistic myths exported via its literature.