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tv   BBC News  BBC News  April 14, 2018 3:00am-3:31am BST

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we country has always done. and what we will continue to do. that was the british prime minister, theresa may, on the uk's decision to join american and french airstrikes on syria. you are watching bbc news. the breaking news here is that the item states, france and the uk have taken the decision to strike syria using airstrikes based on the chemical weapons attack which happened last week. —— in the united states. we can go live now to the pentagon where they are about to issue a statement. good evening, ladies and gentlemen. as the world knows the syrian people have suffered terribly under that prolonged brutality of the assad regime. on april seven the regime decided to again defy the norms of
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civilised people showing callous disregard for international law, by using chemical weapons to murder women, children and other innocents. we and allies find these atrocities inexcusable. as our commander—in—chief the president has the authority under article two of the authority under article two of the constitution to use military force overseas to defend important united states national interests, the united states has vital national interest in averting a worsening catastrophe in syria, and specifically deterring the use and proliferation of chemical weapons. last year in response to a chemical weapons attack against civilians, and a signal to the regime to seize chemical weapons use, we targeted the military base from which the weapons were delivered. earlier today president trump directed the us military to conduct operations
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in... with our allies to destroy the syrian regime's chemical weapons research, development and production capability. tonight france can be a fitting and united states took decisive action to strike the chemical weapons infrastructure in syria. it clearly be assad regime did not get the message...” syria. it clearly be assad regime did not get the message... i think we just lost the sound of general mattis there are but i think we have a sound back. to defeat aish is coalition to defeating isis in syria. the striker separately demonstrate international resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used on anyone under any circumstances in contravention of international law. i want to emphasise that these strikes are direct did at the syrian regime, in
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conducting the strikes we have gone to great lengths in order to avoid civilian and foreign casualties. but it isa civilian and foreign casualties. but it is a time for all civilised nations to urgently unite in ending the syrian civil war by supporting the syrian civil war by supporting the united nations backed geneva peace process. in accordance with the chemical weapons convention prohibiting the use of such weapons, we urge responsible nations to condemn the assad regime and to join us condemn the assad regime and to join us in ourfirm resolve condemn the assad regime and to join us in our firm resolve to prevent chemical weapons from being used again. we want our provider military update. good evening, i amjoined by brigadier general montague, and our british tache. secretary mattis has just outlined the policy and legal framework was knights strike in syria. at 9pm eastern standard time
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french and the british and us forces struck targets in syria in support of president's trump objected to deter the future use of chemical weapons. our forces are integrated throughout the planning and execution of the operation. the targets that were struck and destroyed were specifically associated with the syrian regime's chemical weapons programme. we also selected targets that would minimise the risk to innocent civilians. the first target was a scientific research centre located in the greater the mascot area. this military facility was a syrian ce ntre military facility was a syrian centre for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological warfare technology. the second target was a chemical reckons storage facility —— chemical reckons storage facility —— chemical weapons storage facility we st of chemical weapons storage facility west of homs. we identified this as the primary location of syrian sarin equipment. the second target contained both chemical weapons
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storage facilities and an important command post. us, british and french naval and command post. us, british and french navaland air command post. us, british and french naval and air forces were involved in the operation, and for reasons of operational security i will not be more specific this evening. before we take questions i would like to address how this evening's strikes we re address how this evening's strikes were qualitatively and quantitatively different than the strikes in 2017. last year we conducted a unilateral strike on single strike, on aircraft asserted with the strike in 4017. this evening we conducted strikes on multiple sites with two allied is that will result in a long—term degradation of syria's capability to produce chemical and biological weapons. important in construction was destroyed that will result in a significant setback for the syrian regime. it will lose years of research and development data, equipment and chemical weapons pi’ecufsoi’s. equipment and chemical weapons precursors. tonight's strike was not
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only a strong message to the syrian regime that its actions are inexcusable but it also inflicted maximum risk without civilian risks. i will be glad to take your questions. first of all, did the us suffer any losses initially and more broadly, the president in his remarks said the us and its allies we re remarks said the us and its allies were prepared to sustain this operation until the syrian stopped using chemical weapons. does this mean the us and its partners will continue military operations beyond this initial operation tonight? that will depend on mr assad, should he decide to use more chemical weapons in the future. and of course the powers that have signed the chemical weapons prohibition have every reason to challenge assad should he choose to violate that. but right
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now this is a one—time shot, and i believe it has sent a very strong message to dissuade him, to deter him from doing this again. we will brief on that in the morning, we will not give you a full, right now we have no reports of losses. thank you for doing that, have you seen any retaliation from the russians or the iranians, and how long do you think this operation will last, is ita think this operation will last, is it a matter of hours or days, or could it go longer than that? we did have some initial surface to air missile activity from the syrian regime, that is the only retaliatory action we are aware of at this time. the nature of the operation, we have completed the targets that were assigned to the united states central command, those operations are complete. could you talk a
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little bit about your concerns that you have expressed earlier in the week about russian escalation, were you able to talk to your russian counterpart,... unintelligible. i would like to know, the situation in the uk with v skripals, and how that introduced —— influenced your decision. our sachets were kind enough to join us this evening, they will not get out in front of their presidents and prime ministers. in regard to the russian concerns, we identified these targets to mitigate the risk of russian forces being involved, and we used our normal
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deacon flexion channels, those were active this week to work through the airspace issues and so forth. we did not do any co—ordination with the russians on the strikes, nor did we pre— notify them. russians on the strikes, nor did we pre- notify them. a couple of days ago, you said you were assessing the intelligence on the chemical weapon attack, at this point do you know what the chemical was used in that attack, was its chlorine, was it sarin, and what is your evidence it was delivered by the syrian regime? argued quite clear... i am confident the syrian regime conducted a chemical attack on innocent people. in this last week, yes, absolutely confident of it. and we have the intelligence level of confidence that we needed to conduct the attack. as far as the actual chemical used, do you know what it was, was at an nerve agent, was a
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chlorine, do you have a sense of what it was? we are very much aware of one of the agent, there may have been more than one agent use. we are not clear on that yet. we know at least one chemical agent was use. not clear on that yet. we know at least one chemical agent was uselj least one chemical agent was use.” just want to clarify, you notified the russians ahead of time before the russians ahead of time before the operation began what you are going to do and what targets you would strike? the only communications that took place specifically associated with this operation before the targets were struck was the normal deconfliction of the airspace, which is in place for all our operations in syria. you mentioned the syrian air defences had engaged the syrian state tv, saying they shot down 13, hawk missiles. can you refute that? —— tomahawk. we cannot... the time on
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target was about an hour ago and we came straight up here to give you the best information we have right fiow. the best information we have right now. morrow morning, we will give you more detailed operational updates, and some of the details, but they are not available right fiow. but they are not available right now. but this wave of air strikes is over? it is over, that is why we are speaking to you now.” over? it is over, that is why we are speaking to you now. i wanted to follow u p speaking to you now. i wanted to follow up on what you said about the legal basis for this strike, could you talk a little bit more about that because in your testimony the other day it sounded like you were saying that there is appended —— a potential strike would somehow be linked to self defence and that the presence of american forces in syria, can you say more about that, and regarding whether or not there will be future action or additional strikes, you said that would depend on whether or not the outside —— assad government conducts future attack, but what would be the threshold for that, because there we re threshold for that, because there were repeated chemical attacks between the april 2017 attack and
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today. and would you consider a small—scale chlorine attacked sufficient to launch additional strikes? right nowi sufficient to launch additional strikes? right now i would just tell you that we are in close consultation with our allies, we will review all the evidence all the time, it is difficult as you know to get evidence out of syria. but right now we have no additional attacks planned. but as far as the legal authority under the article two of the constitution, we believe the president has every reason to defend vital american interests, and that is what he did tonight under that authority. a couple of questions for the general, what were some of the targeting considerations or difficulties involved in going after chemical facilities, difficulties involved in going after chemicalfacilities, how difficulties involved in going after chemical facilities, how long do the operation takes a plan, and last year's strikes were described as proportional, moderate, how would you describe this year's in contrast to that? we chose these particular
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targets to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties, number one. we chose these targets because they we re chose these targets because they were specifically associated with the chemical programme, the syrian chemical programme, and we look at target planning and so forth, we look at a location relative to other popular areas —— populated areas, clavicle —— popular areas —— populated areas, clavicle — — collateral popular areas —— populated areas, clavicle —— collateral damage and so forth. these locations were carefully selected. there were manned aircraft involved and we would will give you more details tomorrow morning. up until yesterday, and i will quote you here, you said "i cannot tell you that we have evidence." so when did you become confident that a chemical attack happened. yesterday. and
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second you talked about targeting the chemical weapons infrastructure of assad, if there were actually any chemical weapons or agents in those facilities that you targeted. i assume they would create health hazards in the region, or not? we don't believe, we did very close analysis as the chairman pointed out, we did everything we could in our intelligence assessment and our planning to minimise, to the maximum degree possible, any chance of civilian casualties. we are very much aware that this is difficult to do in much aware that this is difficult to doina much aware that this is difficult to do in a situation like this, especially when the poison gas that aside assured the world he had gotten rid of —— assad. obviously still exists. it was a challenging problem, we have the right military officers dealing with it. can you confirm there will be no leak into the air... of course not, we will do
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our best. with surface to air defences engaged, did they become a target and did us air power or other assets take out those targets?” target and did us air power or other assets take out those targets? i am not aware of any response that we took right now, again we will gather overnight, as you can imagine we tried to leave united states central command alone tonight, they are quite busy, through the night we will gather the operational detail and be back tomorrow morning to provide that detail. last time, last year you change the force protection levels for us troops in syria. there are 2000 us troops in syria, have you changed force protection raced on potential responses from russia? as you can imagine, the commander always takes prudent measures especially environment you are into night. just to be clear on the deconfliction line can make you told them you would be operating in airspace but not, you did not tell the russians what the targets were?
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that is absolutely correct. we used normal deconfliction channels for the airspace we were using, we did not co—ordinate targets or any planning with the russians. that information was passed from the combined air operation centre, that kind of information to put it in perspective is passed routinely, every day and every night. they may not have found anything unusual about that particular airspace deconfliction. can you talk a little bit about any iran or iran associated targets you initially considered, and why you may not have gone for them, and could your colleagues explain exactly the sort of contribution you have made to tonight's operation? again, our allied officers are here out of respect for the fact that they were part of the mission from
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planning through to the decision to ta ke planning through to the decision to take it. once their heads of state speak tomorrow, that will be the initial statement from those capitals. as far as any other targets, we looked at any other targets, we looked at any other targets specifically with regard to the chemical weapons throughout we have seen manifesting. the whole world has watched in horror as these weapons have been used. those were the only targets we were examining the only targets we were examining the prosecution. —— for prosecution. you mentioned three target areas which were struck. how can you be sure that from now on, these were all of the target areas, sorry, all of the facilities for chemical weapons that the syrians were using? and do you believe that there are additional locations where they are producing such materials? great question. we had a number of targets to select from, and again, we did not select those that have a high risk of collateral damage and
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specifically high risk of civilian casualties. going back to that earlier question, the weaponeering was done, the modelling was done, to mitigate the risk of any chemicals in those facilities and mitigate the risk of civilian casualties. there we re risk of civilian casualties. there were other targets. we selected the specific targets both based on the significance to the chemical weapons programme as well as the location and the layout. secretary matters, it seems like this strike tonight was pretty limited, not to dissimilar from was pretty limited, not to dissimilarfrom last was pretty limited, not to dissimilar from last year. was pretty limited, not to dissimilarfrom last year. —— secretary mattis. i know it was three target instead of one, but it does seem a bit more targeted and more specific than what a lot of people were expecting. can you walk us people were expecting. can you walk us through your decision, the concern about escalation with russia, did that affect your decision to keep this more targeted? and moving on from that, how much assurance can you give us that this
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will do what the strike last year didn't do, which was basically to stop president aside from using chemical weapons against the well, nothing is certain in these kinds of matters. however, we used a little over double the number of weapons of this year than we used last year. it was done on targets which we believe we re was done on targets which we believe were selective, to hurt the chemical weapons programme. we can find it to the chemical weapons type targets. —— confined. we were very precise and proportionate and we were not looking to expand this. at the same time, it was a heavy strike. mr secretary, prior to the attack, how important was it to get the support from the allies, not only from an intelligence point of view but also from the countries themselves?m intelligence point of view but also from the countries themselves? it is always important that we act internationally in a unified way
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over something, especially something thatis over something, especially something that is such an atrocity as this. something we have observed going on in syria. but i would also tell you that these allies, the americans, the french, the british, we have operated together through thick and thin, through good times and bad, and this is a very, very well integrated team. wherever we operate we do so with complete trust in each other. complete professionalism. more than that, the belief that one another will be there when the chips are down. so it is important and it isa are down. so it is important and it is a statement about the level of trust between our nations. could you let us know weather the syrians were able to hide a lot of these chemical weapons in the last few days, since there has been so much talk about a possible strike? did that give the syrians time to move some of these weapons off—limits? and secretary mattis, just to confirm earlier, you said you had information about one
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of the chemicals, chlorine, you said you had information confirming chlorine but not necessarily sarin? for the first question, i'm not aware of any specific actions the syrians took to move chemical weapons in the last couple of days. yes, we are very confident that chlorine was used. we are not ruling out sarin right now. following up on that question about the targets you first examines, and then triage down to three tonight. —— triaged. it sounds like you went after the facilities and not the weapons themselves, in order to minimise the risk to civilians. from the targets that remain, could you characterise the ability for syria to ramp up again and again have chemical weapons? i think it is too early to make that assessment. too early, right now. last question... you are watching bbc news coverage ofa
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you are watching bbc news coverage of a pentagon briefing on the us, the uk and france's decision to authorise air strikes on syria. this isa authorise air strikes on syria. this is a breathing with defence secretary james mattis and also the chairman of the joint secretary james mattis and also the chairman of thejoint chiefs of staff, generaljoe dunford. ——joe dunford. i'm not aware of any russian activity, i am not aware of the scope of the syrian regime response at this time. those are the details we will pull together for you ina details we will pull together for you in a moment. the targets tonight, again, were specifically designed to degrade the syrian war machine's ability to create chemical weapons and to set that back. there we re weapons and to set that back. there were no attempts to broaden or expand that target set. ladies and gentlemen, thank you to coming in this evening. based on recent experience we fully expect a significant disinformation campaign over the coming days by those who have aligned themselves with the aside regime. —— assad. in an effort
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to maintain transparency and accuracy, my assistant for public affairs, ms dayna white, and lieutenant general mackenzie, the director of the joint staff here in washington, will provide a brief of known details tomorrow morning, we anticipate about nine o'clock, in this same location. thank you again for coming in this evening ladies and gentlemen. that was a breathing at the pentagon with generaljim mattis, who is the defence secretary, and also general joe dunford, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, which is the most senior military officer in the united states. they were giving a briefing on the targets and what the endgame is in this authorised use of air strikes endgame is in this authorised use of airstrikes in endgame is in this authorised use of air strikes in syria. let's go straight to our correspondent, chris buckler, who is in washington. chris, every time journalists buckler, who is in washington. chris, every timejournalists have to be ata
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chris, every timejournalists have to be at a pentagon briefing at 10pm at night, as it is where you are, a pentagon briefing and also a white house statement, it is a serious moment? yeah. at nine o'clock washington time, and 4am in damascus, president trump gave a speech in which he said military action was beginning. it started at that exact moment. within one hour we had a meeting in the pentagon of people giving speeches there and the whole action itself was over. so this has been a very targeted and what has been described as a 1—shot strike. essentially going in and targeting syrian facilities, whether it be chemical weapons, research la bs it be chemical weapons, research labs where they believe they have been developing chemical weapons, and this was a very specific and targeted strike. now, in his speech president trump talked about being prepared to sustain this response until the syrian regime stop is its
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use of riveted chemical agents. —— prohibited. it was clear from what was being said at the pentagon that the fact that this is a 1—shot, single strike, and that unless there is another use of chemical weapons that they find, then for the minute, that they find, then for the minute, thatis that they find, then for the minute, that is it. it does make you wonder what that sustained response would be. if you look at other parts of donald trump's speech he said there would you some kind of instruments which would be used, potentially military, economic and diplomatic. so there is going to be an attempt to keep the pressure on syria, not really, in the 60 minutes we have had these strikes, and in 60 minutes we have seen the damage that was done, it has been specifically to try to target resident aside's capability to use chemical weapons. —— president assad's. capability to use chemical weapons. -- president assad's. what has been the talk in washington in the buildup this moment? it was not an easy decision to make? no, and there has been lots of discussion about just how sustained and just how
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severe these strikes would be. we understand that has been happening inside the administration as well. some newspapers here have been reporting, for example, that general motors, the defence secretary, and president trump, whereon slightly different pages aboutjust how strong the strikes should be. —— general mattis. now, looking at the way these strikes have played out, certainly they are precision strikes, as they were called, by president trump. i think the word targeted was used by the uk prime minister, theresa may. but fundamentally, they are relatively limited. there has been a real attempt here to avoid civilian casualties. even, when you look at it, an attempt to avoid striking any russian targets. there has been a deliberate attempt to strike the syrian regime specifically on this issue of chemical weapons. sol think those conversations have been had partly in response to the talk of russian retaliation, of russia really standing up and saying they will back their syrian allies, and
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the threat of conflict there. so what we have seen is a 60 minute strike and one which has certainly done damage to president assad's regime, but perhaps not as significant as some might have been led to expect in the days before it took place. chris, what is your sense of the politics in washington? does president trump have broad support for this action?” does president trump have broad support for this action? i think he will have broad support for this action. the bigger question is what comes next. and because although we have talked time and time again about president assad and his behaviour, president trump talked about a pattern of behaviour, saying that this was a significant escalation, what is alleged to have happened in douma a week ago. at the same time there has to be a wider strategy about how they deal with the syrian regime. if you listen to the syrian regime. if you listen to the leaders they are not talking about regime change. but they are concerned about his behaviour. and
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those messages that were being sent out to russia and iran, particularly president trump's speech, where he talked about them not standing alongside a mass murderer, talking about the crimes of a monster, referring to president assad, those are referring to president assad, those a re really referring to president assad, those are really messages that they hope russia and iran will listen to, essentially saying that you should be trying to intervene from your side as well, to stop these kind of atrocities that we are seeing. it is atrocities that we are seeing. it is a year since we saw a strike on syrian forces, since we saw that strike which specifically targeted particular syrian aircraft. now, that, again, a limited strike. it does feel like this is yet again something pretty similar, a limited strike intended to send a message. but there will be some people asking, including in washington, that if that was not successful in changing president assad's regime, will do strike successful either? that was the bbc‘s chris buckler in
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washington. also in washington is michael carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of defence, who served as foreign policy adviser to former vice presidentjoe biden. he is now a resident senior fellow with the atlantic council and joins us now. thank you for coming back on the show. how does this strike helped the syrian people if regime change is not the answer? well, regime change was never the goal year. it wasn't last year and it isn't now and it won't be in the future. that is, you know, us policy has not been to pursue regime change. so this is a significant strike. it targets various different locations across the country, as opposed to last year, where the us military acted alone. and structures one airfield. wow, i should military acted alone. and structures one airfield. wow, ishould point out, there were aircraft taking off within hours of that strike just last year. —— where, i should. so it
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isa last year. —— where, i should. so it is a little bit more robust. we have heard that roughly twice the number of weapons were used today as last year, so i think this is significant. michael, please don't 90. significant. michael, please don't go, stay with us, we will come back to you shortly. let's go straight to seth douan, the damascus correspondent for the american network cbs. we have had the political experts and the defence secretary and the joint chiefs political experts and the defence secretary and thejoint chiefs of staff talking, but what is going on in damascus where you are? very different sound here in damascus. what we are hearing here is the sound ofair what we are hearing here is the sound of air strikes, almost rumbling sort of sounds which sound like thunder in the distance. we we re like thunder in the distance. we were here on this balcony which faces south—east over damascus. we we re faces south—east over damascus. we were listening to president trump speak about four o'clock local time early this morning, and

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