Part 3: Iran in Syria, Reaction to US-led Airstrikes

April 13, 2018
Updated

On April 13, the United States, Britain and France launched strikes in response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons in the rebel enclave of Douma. U.S. aircraft, including B-1 bombers, and at least three warships participated in the attack on three sites related to the regime’s chemical weapons program. President Donald Trump notified the public in a televised address. He criticized Iran and Russia for supporting the Assad regime, asking “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?”

 

The Syrian American Medical Society reported that more than 500 people showed signs of exposure to a chemical agent in Douma on April 7. But Iran dismissed Western allegations that Syrian forces used chemical weapons. Tehran condemned the strikes by the United States and its allies. President Hassan Rouhani warned that the “blatant act of aggression” could destabilize the region. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States again acted as an “international dictator” by attacking a sovereign country.

 

 

Iran has played a critical role in the Assad regime’s fight against rebels and ISIS by mobilizing some 20,000 fighters from Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to fight in Syria. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) have provided training and advice to pro-regime forces since 2011. The following is the full text of Trump’s statements on the strike and reactions from Iranian leaders.

 

President Donald Trump

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. A combined operation with the armed forces of France and the United Kingdom is now underway. We thank them both.

Tonight, I want to speak with you about why we have taken this action.

One year ago, Assad launched a savage chemical weapons attack against his own innocent people. The United States responded with 58 missile strikes that destroyed 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force.

Last Saturday, the Assad regime again deployed chemical weapons to slaughter innocent civilians -- this time, in the town of Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus. This massacre was a significant escalation in a pattern of chemical weapons use by that very terrible regime.

The evil and the 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.

Following the horrors of World War I a century ago, civilized nations joined together to ban chemical warfare. Chemical weapons are uniquely dangerous not only because they inflict gruesome suffering, but because even small amounts can unleash widespread devastation.

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. The combined American, British, and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power -- military, economic, and diplomatic. We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.

I also have a message tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting, equipping, and financing the criminal Assad 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. 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.

In Syria, the United States -- with but a small force being used to eliminate what is left of ISIS -- is doing what is necessary to protect the American people. Over the last year, nearly 100 percent of the territory once controlled by the so-called ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has been liberated and eliminated.

The United States has also rebuilt our friendships across the Middle East. We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing large amounts of money for the resources, equipment, and all of the anti-ISIS effort. Increased engagement from our friends, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, and others can ensure that Iran does not profit from the eradication of ISIS.

America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria under no circumstances. As other nations step up their contributions, we look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home. And great warriors they are.

Looking around our very troubled world, Americans have no illusions. We cannot purge the world of evil, or act everywhere there is tyranny.

No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East. It’s a troubled place. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place. The United States will be a partner and a friend, but the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.

In the last century, we looked straight into the darkest places of the human soul. We saw the anguish that can be unleashed and the evil that can take hold. By the end of the World War I, more than one million people had been killed or injured by chemical weapons. We never want to see that ghastly specter return.

So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.

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.

And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.

Thank you, and goodnight. Thank you.

ꟷApril 13, 2018, in an address to the nation

 

Iranian Reaction

 

President Hassan Rouhani

Rouhani“This blatant act of aggression is not just on the Syrian soil, but on the stability of the entire region.”

“Ignoring the sovereignty of a country means attempting to create instability and turmoil in the region.”

“In conditions where terrorists are suffering a new defeat in Syria every day, this act of aggression by the three countries definitely means supporting these defeated groups.”

“As we have repeatedly emphasized, the presence of any foreign country in Syria without the permission of the Syrian government is against international regulations and a kind of aggression on the Syrian soil.”

“No foreign government can decide for the future of Syria and the only decision makers are the people of this country and the Islamic Republic of Iran will stand by the government and people of Syria.”

“Iran will continue its efforts in all international communities, especially in cooperation with Russia and Turkey to make stability and peace in the region and Syria realized.”

ꟷApril 14, 2018, in a call with Syrian President Bashar al Assad

 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Khamenei“This morning’s attack on Syria is a crime. I firmly declare that the U.S. president, the president of France, and the Prime Minister of Britain have committed a major crime. They will gain no benefit; just as they did not while in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, over the past years, committing the same criminal acts.”

“Those who once supported ISIS, discreetly, claim to oppose them [ISIS] today and somehow defeated them: that is an apparent lie. The U.S. played no role in defeating ISIS.”

“In his speech, a few hours ago, the U.S. president said they managed to defeat ISIS in Syria: another shameless and obvious lie!”

“They, where they [Americans] thought it was necessary, entered and helped [ISIS]. When the main elements of ISIS were encircled, they saved them. Even before that, they were involved in creating ISIS.”

“Using the Saudis’ and their allies’ money, they could create these vile creatures that would attack the nations of Iraq and Syria. However, the resistance against the U.S. and its agents could save these two countries: the outcome will be the same in the future.”

“Just a few days ago, the US president announced that they’ve spent seven trillion in Western Asia—or the Middle-East as he called it—and they [U.S.] gained no profit. He is right: they didn’t gain a thing. The US must know, from now on, no matter how much they spend or how much they endeavor, they will gain nothing from this region!”

"In different regions of the world, Muslims are under intense pressure: they [U.S.] support and help the oppressors of Muslims. They are indifferent toward the troubles and pains inflicted on Muslim nations. USA also supported the cruel dictator Saddam [Hussain]. Thousands of people from Iran and Iraq were killed or injured by the chemical weapons used by Saddam. They [U.S.] are not always against chemical weapons [as they claim]: however, they get involved due to their own arrogant aims, with the excuse of countering dictatorship; nevertheless, they operate as one international dictator.”

"Well, dictators will never succeed; they will certainly be defeated."

“Our presence, beside groups of resistance in Western Asia, is for good reason. Our presence in Syria, in opposition to U.S.-supported terrorists, is not in vain. The claim that the Islamic Republic is seeking hegemony is a nonsensical lie. We have no reason or desire for seeking hegemony. We got involved in the West-Asia region—in Syria—because there was resistance against oppression. Thus, you witness, with God’s grace, thanks to the aid provided and thanks to the bravery of warriors, the Syrian forces managed to defeat the U.S. supported terrorists—which was created by the West and their allies in our region, like the Saudis.”

ꟷApril 14, 2018, in an address to government officials and diplomats from Muslim countries

“Our presence, besides groups of resistance in Western Asia, is for a good reason. Our presence in Syria, in opposition to US-supported terrorism, is not in vain. The claim that the Islamic Republic is seeking hegemony and wants to conquer a certain area is a nonsensical lie. We have no reason or desire for seeking hegemony over any part of the world. We do not need to, either. Thanks be to God, a big, flourishing, and affluent country is in the disposition of the Iranian nation. We got involved in the West-Asian region—in Syria—because there was, and there is, resistance against oppression. Thus, you witness, with God’s grace, thanks to the aid provided and thanks to the bravery of warriors, the Syrian forces have managed to defeat the US-supported terrorists—which were created by the West and their allies in our region, like the Saudis.”

“This morning’s military action on Syria was a crime. I, unequivocally, declare the President of the United States, the French President, and the Prime Minister of Britain as criminals; they have committed a crime. Of course, they will benefit from none of these attacks; just as it was while in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, where they were present over the past years committing the same criminal acts; they gained no advantage.”

“The U.S. president stated that the U.S. struck at Syria to fight against the use of chemical weapons: this is a lie. They never oppose the use of chemical weapons--or any other crimes against humanity. Right now Yemen is bombarded daily: the U.S. is supporting attacks [on Yemen.] In different regions of the world, Muslims are under intense pressure: they [U.S.] support and help the oppressors of Muslims. They [the U.S. government] are indifferent towards the troubles and pains inflicted upon Muslim nations.

—April 16, 2018, in a speech to government officials and diplomats from Muslim countries

 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif

The coalition airstrikes were “illegitimate and criminal.”

“This is a stark example of the U.S. efforts to make up excuses, hamper peace-making process and back terrorists.”

ꟷApril 14, 2018, in a phone call with his Syrian counterpart

 

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This amounts to a flagrant breach of international laws and principles, and a violation of Syria’s right to national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Based on religious, legal and moral principles, the Islamic Republic of Iran is against the use of chemical weapons, and at the same time dismisses as utterly unacceptable and denounces seeking pretexts to launch aggression against an independent country.

Incontrovertibly, the US and its allies are responsible and should be held accountable for the consequences of this adventurism both in the region and beyond as they have taken military action against Syria and put themselves in the position of the global judge and police while there is no substantiated evidence [that Syria used chemical weapons] and [they have taken military action] before the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announces its final viewpoint. The timing of the United States’ levelling accusations and military action, which was taken at two points in time, shows well that both [military] actions came after the defeat of terrorists in Aleppo and now in Eastern Ghouta, and this blatant aggression is a move to make up for the failures and defeat of terrorists and to support them. Indubitably, the resistant Syrian nation, like in the past seven years, will thwart the plots aimed at changing the equations on the ground in favour of terrorists.

The United States’ recent military aggression against Syria comes at a time when this country (the US), a few days ago, even prevented the condemnation of [the attacks by] the Zionist regime [of Israel], which had slaughtered thousands of oppressed Gaza residents over the previous years, to once again lay bare its biased policies and double standards before the international community.

International organizations and institutions as well as independent countries around the world should fulfil their historical responsibility vis-à-vis such international chaos-provoking behaviour and strongly condemn this arbitrary and unilateral move against the territorial integrity and national sovereignty of an independent country which is a member of the United Nations, a move which is in gross violation of legal and international regulations, especially the UN Charter, and will definitely further undermine the pillars of peace and security in the world, bring about more instability and unrest across the globe and promote extremism and terrorism.

ꟷApril 14, 2018, in a statement

 

Head of the IRGC Political Bureau Brigadier General Yadollah Javani

“The move by the US and its allies- the UK and France- to carry out air strikes on Syria is illegitimate and a flagrant violation [of Syria’s sovereignty].”

“Damascus had already prepared the ground for the visit of the fact-finding mission to Syria. The strikes disprove the false claim by the US about Syria’s chemical attack.”

“The US was worried that the final report of the mission would stand in stark contradiction with its claim about Syria chemical attack, depriving it of a good pretext to attack Syria.”

“The US officials should be held accountable for the regional consequences of the US-led airstrikes on Syria.”

ꟷApril 14, 2018, according to Fars News Agency (translation by Iran Front Page)

 

Syrian Reaction

 

Syrian President Bashar al Assad

“This act of aggression has had no achievement for the aggressors.”

“When the aggressors did not achieve their goals through political ways, they decided to carry out this act of aggression, which is against all international regulations.”

ꟷApril 14, 2018, in a call with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Updated