On Thursday night, President Donald Trump launched a military strike against a Syrian government airbase. The move, made in response to a gas attack by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad earlier this week, took place while most US allies in Europe and the Middle East were asleep. But within a few hours, reactions began to trickle out. The support came from predictable corners — Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Israel.
Russia, the Assad regime’s most important overseas ally, predictably issued a swift condemnation. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for President Vladimir Putin, called the strike “an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext” and warned that the United States had just "dealt a serious blow to Russian-US relations.”
Iran, which also backs Assad militarily, was similarly displeased. Foreign ministry spokesperson Bahram Ghasemi said Iran “regards this unilateral measure as dangerous, destructive and a violation of international law.”
Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, called the strikes a result of “a false propaganda campaign” in a statement. Syria denies it has used chemical weapons. The statement said the American strike had killed six people, according to the Syrian army, and the Syrian military called it a demonstration of “flagrant aggression.”
Support was otherwise nearly universal
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande gave a full throated backing of President Trump’s move in a joint statement: “Assad carries the complete responsibility for these developments, his continuous use of chemical arms and mass crimes cannot remain effectively unpunished.” The statement continued:
President Assad alone bears responsibility for this development. His repeated use of chemical weapons and his crimes against his own population had to be sanctioned.
Separately, Merkel added that the US action was “limited and targeted” and that "the attack of the United States is understandable given the dimension of the war crimes, given the suffering of innocent people, and given the blockage in the U.N. Security Council.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu similarly backed President Trump’s action:
In the United Kingdom, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC:
The Americans believe they've exhausted all possible diplomatic and peaceful ways of dealing with the use by the regime of chemical weapons and they have been determined to try to prevent future attacks like this so they've taken this action today.
However, the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, took a somewhat less supportive position, cautioning that Trump’s action “risks escalating the war in Syria still further.”
The European Council President Donald Tusk tweeted his support:
US strikes show needed resolve against barbaric chemical attacks. EU will work with the US to end brutality in Syria.— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) April 7, 2017
As did the prime minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull:
EU President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted a sober statement:
Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry offered “strong support for the military operations carried out against military targets in Syria," according to a statement from the Saudi Press Agency.
Bahrain and the UAE signaled they supported the action, and the Jordanians tweeted a note of encouragement:
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said his country “welcomed” the action, and Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesperson for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said in a statement that the “destruction of Shayrat airbase marks an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished." He also called for a no-fly zone and the creation of safe zones in Syria, according to CNN.