World Reaction to Strikes on Syria

The United States, the United Kingdom, and France on April 13 launched strikes on Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack which they blamed on Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

While US Defense Secretary James Mattis described the strikes as a “one-time” shot, the Western allies warned more strikes could come in the event of another chemical weapons attack in Syria.

Here’s a look at world reaction to the strikes.


US President Donald J. Trump announced the strikes on April 13.

Referring to the suspected chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7, Trump said: “These are not the actions of a man. They are crimes of a monster instead.”

Trump added: “The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish a strong deterrent against the production, spread and use of chemical weapons. Establishing this deterrent is a vital national security interest of the United States…

“We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.”

He also had a pointed message for Russia and Iran, which support Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

“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? The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.

No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states, brutal tyrants and murderous dictators. In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that 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.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May said the strikes were not intended to bring about regime change in Syria.

“The Syrian regime has a history of using chemical weapons against its own people in the most cruel and abhorrent way.

“And a significant body of information including intelligence indicates the Syrian regime is responsible for this latest attack [in Douma].

“This persistent pattern of behavior must be stopped—not just to protect innocent people in Syria from the horrific deaths and casualties caused by chemical weapons but also because we cannot allow the erosion of the international norm that prevents the use of these weapons.

“We have sought to use every possible diplomatic channel to achieve this. But our efforts have been repeatedly thwarted…

“So there is no practicable alternative to the use of force to degrade and deter the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.

“This is not about intervening in a civil war. It is not about regime change. 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.”


French President Emmanuel Macron accused the Assad regime of the attack in Douma.

“There is no doubt as to the facts and to the responsibility of the Syrian regime.

“The red line declared by France in May 2017 has been crossed…

“Our response has been limited to the Syrian regime’s facilities enabling the production and employment of chemical weapons.

“We cannot tolerate the normalization of the employment of chemical weapons, which is an immediate danger to the Syrian people and to our collective security.”


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was supportive of the strikes.

“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.”‎


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he supported the action taken by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom in Syria.

“This will reduce the regime’s ability to further attack the people of Syria with chemical weapons.

“NATO has consistently condemned Syria’s continued use of chemical weapons as a clear breach of international norms and agreements. The use of chemical weapons is unacceptable, and those responsible must be held accountable.

“NATO considers the use of chemical weapons as a threat to international peace and security and believes that it is essential to protect the Chemical Weapons Convention. This calls for a collective and effective response by the international community.”


Germany, while not part of the Western coalition that carried out the strikes, was supportive of the action.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the strikes were “necessary and appropriate” action to deliver a warning to the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons.


Russian President Vladimir Putin said the suspected chemical weapons attack in Douma was fake and described the strikes as “an act of aggression.”

He said the strikes had a “destructive influence on the entire system of international relations.”

Russia, which has a military presence in Syria, said it had not engaged its own defense systems during the strike.

“None of the missiles landed in any of the areas under the responsibility of Russian air defense systems in Tartus and Khmeimime,” the Russian defense ministry said in a statement.

It said Syrian air defenses had intercepted seventy-one of the one hundred and three cruise missiles fired by coalition forces.


Iran warned of “regional consequences” of the attack.

“The United States and its allies have no proof and, without even waiting for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to take a position, have carried out this military attack… and are responsible for the regional consequences,” said foreign ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi.

Ashish Kumar Sen is deputy director of communications, editorial, at the Atlantic Council. Follow him on Twitter @AshishSen.

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Image: A French Rafale fighter jet prepares to take off late April 13 from the Saint-Dizier military base in eastern France in this picture released April 14 by the French military. France on April 14 joined the United States and the United Kingdom in strikes on chemical weapons facilities in Syria. (ECPAD/French Military/Handout via Reuters)