A series of air strikes in Syria by the US and its allies were done to send a clear message to President Bashar al-Assad to cease his chemical weapons programme, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Saturday and asked all civilized nations to urgently unite and stand to stop the Syrian civil war.
“The authoritarian Assad regime did not get the message last year as it was hit by American missiles after it carried out chemical weapons attack against its own people,” Mattis said adding that it carried used chemical weapons again this year.
Emphasizing that the strikes are directed at the Syrian regime, Mattis said in conducting these strikes, the US has gone to great lengths to avoid civilian and foreign casualties. “But it is time for all civilized nations to urgently unite in ending the Syrian civil war by supporting the United Nations-backed Geneva peace process,” he said.
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Chairman, Jon Dunford, stated that the targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically connected with the Syrian regimes chemical weapons program. The first target of the chemical weapon was a scientific research center located in the Greater Damascus area. “This military facility was a Syrian Center for the research development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology,” he said, adding that the second target was a chemical weapons storage facility.
“They will lose years of research and development data, specialized equipment, and expensive chemical weapons precursors. The strike was not only a strong message to the regime that their actions were inexcusable, but it also inflicted maximum damage without unnecessary risk to innocent civilians,” Dunford said.
Responding to questions, Mattis said that “right now this is a one-time shot” and it sent a very strong message to Assad. “We did have some initial surface to air missile activity from the Syrian regime. That is the only retaliatory action that we’re aware of at this time,” Dunford said, adding that the manner of the operation and targets were assigned to the United States Central Command has been completed.
The United States, France and Britain, Dunford said, “did not do any coordination” with the Russians on the strikes, nor did they were pre-notified by the US. “The only communications that took place specifically (with Russians) with this operation before the targets were struck was the normal deconfliction of the airspace, the procedures that are in place for all of our operations in Syria,” he said.