President Donald Trump announced precision strikes Friday against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons infrastructure following Assad’s recent attack in the town of Douma.
Trump addressed the American people at the beginning of his statement, saying he ordered the strike in coordination with the U.K. and France.
"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," Trump said. "A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both."
Trump justified the action by noting that this is not Assad’s first chemical attack, and he touted the effectiveness of the cruise-missile strike he launched last year after Assad used chemical weapons.
"The United States responded [in 2017] with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian air force," he said.
Trump also spoke directly to the leaders of Russia and Iran, calling on them to stop backing Assad and help their own standing in the world.
"I also have a message tonight for two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime," Trump said. "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?"
"No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants, and murderous dictators," Trump added. "In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world 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."
Trump said he wanted Russia and Iran to stop being belligerent actors in world affairs, acknowledging that it is up to them.
"Hopefully someday we'll get along with Russia and maybe even Iran, but maybe not," Trump said.
He went on to say that the goal of his action was to establish a deterrent to chemical weapons use.
"The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread, and use of chemical weapons," he said. "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."
He described the gruesome details of the gas attack, which he said makes Assad guilty of the "crimes of a monster."
"This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime," he said. "The evil and 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."
Trump concluded his remarks by asking for prayers for U.S. armed forces, for Syria, and for the whole Middle East.
"So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality," he said. "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."