After days of speculation, the United States took action Friday night to punish the Syrian regime for a suspected chemical weapons attack a week prior. French, British and American forces launched a salvo of more than 100 missiles against three Syrian regime targets, and U.S. officials claimed the attack significantly degraded the regime’s chemical-weapons program.
Despite rumblings of a more sustained air campaign against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the strike echoed the one-off bombardment Trump ordered one year ago. That attack also followed an alleged chemical-weapons attack, but what was meant to chasten the Assad regime and its allies at the time did nothing of the sort.
Nevertheless, Trump took to Twitter to hail the efficacy of the strikes and declare “Mission Accomplished!”
That’s an unfortunate phrase for any American president with geopolitical ambitions in the Middle East, but it’s particularly awkward for Trump given that little seems to have been accomplished at all. There’s still uncertainty over what exactly was destroyed during this “pinprick” strike, with some reports indicating that Assad’s ability to use chemical weaponry remains intact. Meanwhile, Assad’s supporters partied in the streets of Damascus on Saturday, waving Syrian flags and holding up pictures of their leader.
The attack, my colleague Liz Sly wrote, was “interpreted in Syria as a win for Assad because the limited scope of the strikes suggested that Western powers do not intend to challenge his rule.”
On Sunday, the Syrian military declared that it had taken full control over Eastern Ghouta. The area outside Damascus was besieged for years by the Assad regime and subject to alleged chemical-weapons attacks, including the assault this month that killed dozens of civilians and triggered U.S. action. That incident, according to reports, prompted the remaining rebels to surrender and agree to be evacuated out of the area. Regime officials crowed on Sunday that Eastern Ghouta was “completely clear of terrorism.”