President Trump has vowed to carry out further airstrikes on Syria if the regime dares to use chemical weapons again, as Nikki Haley lashed out at Russia during a fiery meeting of the UN Security Council.
Scores of fast jets, fighters and destroyers fired more than 100 missiles at three military targets in Syria on Friday night in retaliation for President Assad's chemical weapons attack on the rebel enclave of Douma on April 7, reports Daily Mail.
While President Trump greeted the end of the attacks with a tweet saying "mission accomplished", Ambassador Haley promised the US was ready for another strike if Assad crossed the chemical weapons "red line" in the future.
"The time for talk ended last night," Haley told an emergency meeting of the Security Council called by Russia. "We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will.
"I spoke to President Trump this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded."
She also accused the Russians of covering up crimes committed by its ally, Assad, who she said had used chemical weapons 50 times in the past seven years of warfare.
"Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and its cover-ups," she said of Syria's strongest ally, Haley said. "Russia was supposed to guarantee Assad would not use chemical weapons, and Russia did the opposite.
"We cannot stand by and let Russia trash every international norm that we stand for, and allow the use of chemical weapons to go unanswered."
President Trump said Saturday in his first comments since the air raid: "Thank you to France and the United Kingdom for their wisdom and the power of their fine Military. Could not have had a better result. Mission Accomplished!"
"So proud of our great Military which will soon be, after the spending of billions of fully approved dollars, the finest that our Country has ever had. There won't be anything, or anyone, even close!" he tweeted.
Russia proposed a motion at the Security Council to pass a resolution condemning the airstrikes, but this was rejected with only Russia, China and Bolivia voting in favour.
The country's ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, hit back at Haley's insults by accusing the US of 'hooliganism' and breaking international law.
"Why are you seeking to plunge the Middle East into such difficulties, provoking one conflict after another, pitting one state against another?" he said. "Is the latest wave of chaos being unleashed only for the sake of that?"
President Trump signaled a shift in his attitude toward Russia earlier this week when he said that "everybody" involved in the poison attack, including President Putin, would "pay a price."
He took direct aim at the man he's repeatedly expressed a desire to get along with in spite of Russian aggression and election meddling in his national address on Friday, informing Putin that he and his government will be judged by the company that they keep.
He also discussed the issue with Theresa May on Thursday, during a phone call in which both leaders reportedly agreed on the need for action.
Trump's administration seemed ready to turn the screws on Moscow on Saturday morning as it prepared to make good on the president's promise that Russia, like Syria, would pay for its inhumanity.
The sanctions that were mentioned in the talking points remained unconfirmed, and neither the White House nor the Treasury Department immediately responded to requests for comment on the revelation.
At a morning briefing, the Pentagon also said that the airstrikes on Syria "were very successful" in that the coalition met its objectives.
"We hit the sites," Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said at a Saturday morning briefing. "It was mission accomplished," she said.
The White House's talking points on the airstrikes emphasized the grotesqueness of the photos of children of "dead and dying children" as a "call to action among the world's civilized nations."
Surrogates for the administration were told to stress in media appearance that "actors who use these abhorrent weapons will be held accountable for their actions" but make clear that strikes "are not intended as a provocation against the Russian Federation or its forces in Syria. We do not seek armed conflict with the Russian Federation."
Nations that can but do not act to stop horrific attacks like the one in Syria "make themselves complicit in these outrages," the White House instructed its allies to say, and "everyone must understand that the costs of using chemical weapons will always outweigh any military or political benefits."
The talking points that were provided to DailyMail.com by a source also revealed the United States' intent to impose new sanctions on Russia in response to Moscow's "ongoing support for the Assad regime" which the White House says has "enabled the regime's atrocities against the Syrian people."
Whether the strikes would have the intended effect — keeping Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from gassing the people of his country again — remains to be seen.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Saturday morning that "a lot has been destroyed in last night's strikes" but additional strikes could come if Assad crossed the "red line" of using chemical weapons again.
President Trump's "mission accomplished" claim drudged up old memories of another Republican president, George W. Bush, standing under a banner in 2003 and declaring the same thing. Bush's war in Iraq lasted for years, and when the U.S. finally left the power vacuum was filled by ISIS.
France says a "large part" of the Syria's chemical arsenal was destroyed during coordinated strikes that the U.S. and U.K. joined the country in launching on facilities known to be used in the production of the deadly weapons.
American, British and French forces launched the airstrikes on two chemical weapons facilities and a military command post in Syria early Saturday local time in retaliation for a chlorine gas attack a week ago that left up 75 civilians dead.
He said: "On the question of chemical weapons, there is a red line that must not be crossed, and if it should be crossed again, there will be another intervention. But I think the lesson has been learned."
Meanwhile, Syrian government tweeted shortly after the assault, "Honorable souls cannot be humiliated."
State TV said the country's air defenses shot down 13 missiles in the Kiswah area south of Damascus and claimed three civilians were wounded in the attack on the military base.
The Pentagon disputed those claims on Saturday, with Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, telling reporters, "As of right now we're not aware of any civilian casualties."
A senior official also said that none of the U.S. missiles were intercepted by Syrian forces.
The strikes carried out by the United States consisted of more than 100 missiles, the Pentagon indicated, with Secretary of Defense James Mattis describing the number as "a little over double the number of weapons" that were used in last year's air assault on Syria.
That April 7, 2017 attack on a Syrian airbase after Assad's confirmed use of chemical weapons on civilians consisted of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
McKenzie on Saturday said the exact number of missiles launched was 105.
At his Friday evening news conference, Mattis said the latest round of strikes "sent a very strong message" to Assad and his "murderous lieutenants" and that "right now this is a one-time shot" driving home a message that conflicted with the president's.
"That will depend on Mr. Assad should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future," Mattis said of future strikes.
In a news conference that followed Trump's remarks, Mattis confirmed that chlorine gas, and possibly sarin, was used by Assad's forces to poison Syrians a week ago.
Trump said the purpose of the U.S.-led strike was to "establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use" of such chemical weapons. But he said America does not seek "an indefinite presence" in Syria and looks forward to the day when it can withdraw its troops from Syria.
In a statement, British Prime Minister Theresa May described the coalition air assault as a "limited and targeted strike that does not further escalate tensions in the region."
"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," she said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said the 'red line' set by France in May of 2017 "had been crossed."
"We cannot tolerate the trivialization of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger for the Syrian people and our collective security," Macron said. "This is the direction of the diplomatic initiatives put forward by France at the United Nations Security Council."
Loud explosions rocked Syria's capital and and lit up the sky with heavy smoke. Hours later crowds of Assad supporters gathered in the center of Damascus in a show of defiance.
Hundreds of residents gathered in Omayyad Square, many waving Syrian, Russian and Iranian flags. Some clapped their hands and danced, others drove in convoys, honking their horns.
"We are your men, Bashar," they shouted.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said that all three areas the coalition "struck and destroyed" were specific to the Syrian regime's chemical weapons program.
The scientific research center was used for the development and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology, he said. Another target, a storage facility west of Homs, was a primary location for sarin and precursor production equipment. The third target was a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and an important command force.
General Dunford said U.S., British and French entrenched naval and air forces were involved, but for operational security, he would not be more specific than that.
The U.S. and the U.K. emphasized that steps had been taken to minimize civilian casualties.
"We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents," Trump in his address said.
He also said in the remarks that lasted a little more than eight minutes that he had a message for "two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime" -- Iran and Russia.
"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," he said. "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."
He added, "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."
Iran's Foreign Ministry on Saturday strongly condemned the attacks on Syria and said Washington and its allies would bear the responsibility of the raids' consequences in the region and beyond, Iranian state media reported.
"Undoubtedly, the United States and its allies, which took military action against Syria despite the absence of any proven evidence... will assume the responsibility for the regional and trans-regional consequences of this adventurism," Iran's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by state media.
Russian lawmaker and the deputy head of Russia's foreign affairs committee Vladimir Dzhabarov said Moscow was likely to call for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the air strikes.
"The situation is being analysed right now. Russia will demand a meeting of the U.N. security council, I am sure."
Russia's Ambassador to the United States warned the White House on Friday that military strikes against its ally "will not be left without consequences".
"Insulting the President of Russia is unacceptable and inadmissible," Anatoly Antonov saidl "The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries," he added.
Alexander Sherin, deputy head of the State Duma's defense committee, said Trump "can be called Adolf Hitler No. 2 of our time - because, you see, he even chose the time that Hitler attacked the Soviet Union," according to state news agency RIA-Novosti.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, in a statement on Facebook, said the U.S. struck Syria when the country finally had a chance at peace.
"One must be really exceptional to strike Syria's capital when the country finally got a chance for a peaceful future," she wrote.
Israeli officials backed the move, with an unnamed spokesman telling Reuters that the three allies were right to enforce the ban on chemical warfare.
"Last year, President Trump made clear that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. Tonight, under American leadership, the United States, France and the United Kingdom enforced that line,' the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Syria continues to engage in and provide a base for murderous actions, including those of Iran, that put its territory, its forces and its leadership at risk."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also backed the attack. "Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week's attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria," Trudeau said.
"Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people. We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice."
U.S. air strikes had been expected since harrowing footage surfaced of the aftermath of the toxic gas attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma a week ago. Trump had reacted with a tweet warning Assad and his allies that the action would not go unchecked.
"Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria," he declared. "President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay."
Trump told reporters that the list of people he'd punish included the Russian president, if appropriate.
"Everybody's gonna pay a price. He will. Everybody will," the U.S. president said.
After Russia rejected a U.S.-sponsored resolution authorizing a probe of the gas attack and vowed to shoot down U.S. missiles fired upon Syria, Trump took aim at the Kremlin.
"Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" Trump tweeted.
The White House left open the possibility of direct, military engagement with Russia after the tweet.
Russia's deputy prime minister, Arkady Dvorkovich, just brushed the rebuke off, however, saying, according to state media, "We cannot depend on the mood of someone on the other side of the ocean when he wakes up, on what a specific person takes into his head in the morning."
Moscow has claimed all along that the chemical weapons attack did not take place and on Friday that it had 'irrefutable evidence' that it had been fabricated.
The U.S. meanwhile joined France and the U.K. in pointing the finger for the attack - and their missiles - directly at Assad's forces.
Mattis said Friday evening that he was 'confident' Assad's regime conducted a chemical weapons attack.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., said at an emergency meeting of the Security Council, "We know who did this. Our allies know who did this. Russia can complain all it wants about fake news, but no one is buying its lies and cover-ups."
The Friday night assault earned tepid support from Democrats in Congress who said they are awaiting additional information from the Trump administration about the targets and goals of the strike.
Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the upper chamber's Intelligence Committee, said, "While the U.S. and our allies must not turn a blind eye to Assad's vile and inhumane attacks against his own citizens, military action in Syria must be measured, as part of a coherent strategy to prevent Assad from using chemical weapons without further destabilizing an already-volatile region or inadvertently expanding the conflict."
Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, said that Assad's weapons attack was a 'brutally inhumane war crime that demands a strong, smart and calculated response.
But she argued, "One night of airstrikes is not a substitute for a clear, comprehensive Syria strategy.
"The President must come to Congress and secure an Authorization for Use of Military Force by proposing a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives that keep our military safe and avoid collateral damage to innocent civilians," the leading House Democrat insisted in a statement. "President Trump must also hold Putin accountable for his enabling of the Assad regime's atrocities against the Syrian people."
Vice President Mike Pence briefed Pelosi and other congressional leaders by phone after skipping a reception and rushing back to his hotel in Lima, Peru.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell received calls notifying them of the action before the president's address, the vice president's communications director, Jarrod Agen, said. So did Pelosi.
Pence was unable to reach Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer until afterward, Pence's spokesman explained, because the top-ranking Democrat was on a flight.
The vice president was attending a summit in Peru on Friday in Trump's stead. Trump called off his trip as he mulled how to respond to the attack in Syria.
House Speaker Paul Ryan meanwhile praised Trump's "decisive action in coordination with our allies," adding, "We are united in our resolve."
Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman John McCain applauded the airstrikes but said "they alone will not achieve U.S. objectives in the Middle East."
"I hope these strikes impose meaningful costs on Assad. The message to Assad must be that the cost of using chemical weapons is worse than any perceived benefit, that the United States and our allies have the will and capability to continue imposing those costs, and that Iran and Russia will ultimately be unsuccessful in protecting Assad from our punative response," McCain said in a statement.
Schumer said the airstrikes were "appropriate" yet cautioned the Trump administration "to be careful about not getting us into a greater and more involved war in Syria."
Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said there "is absolutely no question" the gas attack merits a strong response. However, he said he remains concerned the U.S. will become mired in the 'horrific and complex civil war that has been raging in Syria.
"While these joint American, British and French strikes are morally justified against the Assad regime's gassing of its own people, they take place with no congressional authorization," he asserted.
U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, also said: "President Trump's decision to launch airstrikes against the Syrian government without Congress's approval is illegal and – absent a broader strategy – it's reckless.
"Last week, President Trump was adamant that the U.S. was leaving Syria imminently. This week, he is opening a new military front. Assad must face consequences for his war crimes, but Presidents cannot initiate military action when there isn't an imminent threat to American lives."
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said his committee would convene a hearing next week on U.S. policy for the region. "The administration needs to begin fully explaining its strategy for the months ahead," he said.
"Military force cannot be the only means of responding to these atrocities. The U.S. must leverage strong diplomacy and serious financial pressure. That's why, last year, the House led in passing tough new sanctions against Assad and his enablers. The Senate needs to move this legislation to the president's desk quickly."