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tv   BBC News  BBC News  April 7, 2017 3:00am-3:31am BST

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the number of outlets are reporting that they were in fact informed before the missiles struck. you are watching bbc news. the breaking news the sour. it is now confirmed that we think 59 cruise missiles have been fired by navy destroyers onto an airbase in syria, just near homs. it is thought it is the airbase from which the syrian government chemical weapons attack was launched earlier this week on a rebel held the town, killing many people. it is understood the runways and fuel points were targeted. syrian tv has spoken of american military aggression. president trump has spoken of the strike in a vital national security interest of the us. barbara is at mar—a—lago in florida, where president trump is meeting the chinese president. there
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was a political and military point to be made with the strike. well, in terms of domestic politics i think president trump clearly showed on he wa nted president trump clearly showed on he wanted to show that if the assad regime crossed the red line of using chemical weapons than the trump administration would respond in a way that the obama administration did not respond. we have president trump speaking now. let's go to that. innocent civilians. using a deadly nerve agent, assad choked out the lives of many women and children. it was a slow and brutal death for so many. even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. no child of god should ever suffer such horror.
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tonight i ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in syria from where the chemical attack was launched. it is in this vital national security interest of the united states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. the cabbie noticed but that syria used chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the laws of the un security council. years of previous attempts at changing assad's behaviour are for all failed —— have all failed and failed
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dramatically. as a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the united states and its allies. tonight i call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. we ask for god is wisdom as we face the challenge of oui’ wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. we pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. as long as america stands forjustice, peace and harmony will in the end prevail. good night and god bless
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america and the entire world. thank you. that was president trump of course is speaking from mar—a—lago. our correspondent is still there. barbara, i don't think it is an unfair point to make that this is a man who came from reality tv, a man who cares a great deal about ratings and about how things look. you mentioned —— he mentioned again, he said he would be another parents —— president who wouldn't get involved in complex overseas. —— conflicts. it was moving images that moved him? he did mention that again. he mentioned that again when he was responding to the chemical weapons strike and he mentioned it again in
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the video or the recording now. that he had found the pictures of the suffering children particularly moving and perhaps that is something that helped him to make this decision such a decision as this so quickly. it reverses as i said before his own position and also the position that america has taken on the civil war. he says he goes by his instincts and make decisions quickly, he adapts to situations, so all of these things i am sure were taken into consideration when he decided that something must be done. something that has been done so far if this is where it ends has been quite limited in terms of casualties. we haven't heard of any casualties. we haven't heard of any casualties so far in terms of damage. there were very clear targets, very clearly linked at least by the american administration to the chemical attack itself. the
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strike was very much meant to be a response to that attack, to say that this was a heinous act. there does not seem to be an attempt to topple bashar al—assad. to enter the war to enter the balance of power on the ground —— change the balance. it seems to be very much a message related to the kind of horrors that we have seen from this chemical weapons attack. that's an interesting point. given that rex tillerson, the us secretary of state, is hinting at a policy of regime change, saying there appears to be no future for president assad as syrian leader. i'm not sure he is hinting at a policy of regime change. i don't think this administration has formulated an assad policy. if you look carefully at what rex tillerson said, he said
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it seems there is no role for president assad in government. that is something the obama administration said all the time and it eventually decided it would not be able to make that happen, but it still said he should have a role. mr tillotson seems to have gone further and he said that at some point the international coalition should get involved in protesting against president assad staying. —— mr tillerson. the friend that in terms of the political process itself and he didn't seem to think it would be imminent. he talked about first getting rid of islamic state, bringing stability to syria and getting a ceasefire. then a political process. and in that process lobbying for assad not to have a role in the end. so i wouldn't call that regime change. i'm not quite sure what you would call it. i don't know that the administration has formulated all
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that carefully. in the past 2a hours they have changed their position. it's a sign that assad is a bad guy and that syria will not benefit from having him stay, but we don't know what that will mean in practice. have you had any thoughts on this? in 2013, any people pointing out that donaldj in 2013, any people pointing out that donald j trump, in 2013, any people pointing out that donald] trump, as he was then, tweeted that the president must get congressional approval before attacking syria. big mistake if he does not. is there an issue there today? i don't think there is legally. we'll see politically if there is. president obama that decision to consult congress after he saw the way that the vote went in parliament in britain. we can have a vote about whether to intervene in the syria civil war. part of it voted against it. mr obama up until that point had been preparing to launch strikes in response to the
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chemical weapons attack and then he decided to consult congress. we know what happened after that. we will see whether there will be a strong push back from congress. i saw the tweet of one democratic congress person who said congress should decide and i imagine there will be voices like that raised. i don't know how strong they will be, especially depending on where this goes, if it is very limited and very related to an horrific act like the chemical weapons attack. perhaps it won't be that loud. if this looks like it is opening up a new front in the war that could take... that could suck the us further into syria andi could suck the us further into syria and i think we will hear a lot more. we will have to see how that plays out in the coming days. thank you very much. i'm just going to go back to president trump's statement, in case you joined us recently. 55 cruise missiles, we believe that the number, have been fired into syria from two maybe destroyers. we
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understand it is at an airfield in homs. we believe that's where the chemical weapons attack was launched from, killing dozens of people, including children. we willjust hear from the statement from president trump. my fellow americans. on tuesday the syrian dictator bashar al—assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. using a deadly nerve agent, assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. it was a slow and brutal death for so many. even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. no child of god should ever suffer such horror.
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tonight i ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in syria from where the chemical attack was launched. it is in this vital national security interest of the united states to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. there can be no dispute that syria used chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the chemical weapons convention and ignored the urging of the un security council. years at previous attempts at changing assad's behaviour have all failed
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and failed very dramatically. as a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilise, threatening the united states and its allies. tonight i call on all civilised nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. we ask for god's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. we pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. and we hope that, as long as america stands forjustice, then peace and harmony will in the end prevail.
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good night and god bless america and the entire world. thank you. but was mr trump at mar—a—lago. our correspondent is still there as well. a president who was noninterventionist, who wasn't going to ta ke noninterventionist, who wasn't going to take us into foreign wars, has intervened. how do you think his supporters will view what has just happened? well, i think it all really hinges on whether it is a 1—off or whether it draws america further into the war. if it's a 1—off then it shows i would think the voters would probably seen mr trump as behaving decisively, as a man of action, taking military action against an atrocity. that's com pletely action against an atrocity. that's
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completely indefensible. he himself said it was a targeted military strike and didn't suggest it was the opening of going after bashar al—assad's regime in any other way. i think al—assad's regime in any other way. ithink in al—assad's regime in any other way. i think in that sense i can't... i would imagine that he would get some support from voters. they don't want more soldiers going into syria, dying ina more soldiers going into syria, dying in a middle east war to which they don't see an end. or an advantage. but for... inaudible. they don't see an end. or an advantage. but for... inaudiblelj think we havejust advantage. but for... inaudiblelj think we have just lost the connection with barbara to. let's speak to the middle east analyst who we spoke tojust speak to the middle east analyst who we spoke to just now. he is also an intelligence operative, all was, for many years. you raise this earlier and it would be good to know more about it. you said the most likely response was from iran, possibly
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through proxies. how much of a problem is that for everybody concerned? it duction -- iranian proxies are the ground force for the russian airforce, proxies are the ground force for the russian air force, so proxies are the ground force for the russian airforce, so russian airstrikes are always in support of either hezbollah forces or iraqi shia militias that have joined assad's forces. the syrian defence forces, assad's forces, are the greatest force on the ground in syria. it is what iran has brought in. iran may caution them not to do something. it doesn't mean they won't. i think the iraqi militias, if told to stand down by iran in syria, will have a hard time doing so. iran can control hezbollah but if hezbollah conducts attacks against the us it is at the nod of iran. if iraqi militias conduct attacks against the us in syria it
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could be at the nod of iran. our intelligence community will be able to find out whether or not iran's forces encourage that are at least as a, if you do it you do it on your own. that is tacit approval in my opinion because it gives them space. iam opinion because it gives them space. i am concerned about the 5000— 7000 americans in iraq who have been under threat for about two years now, with shia militias from the assad... i'm sorry, i can't think right. the people's mobilisation unit. we have different groups, mobilisation units. the leader of a terrorist organisation and —— has
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said he will attack the us if it goes against iran's interests. he and his militia are fighting not only in iraq but also in syria. they see it as a battlefield. if the us does something in syria it could have consequences in iraq. hezbollah and other terrorist groups, their commander is the deputy commander of the people's mobilisation units, meaning his proxy force has already threatened to kill americans in iraq. the biggest concern. president trump makes that it is in america's vital national security interest to stop the spread and the use of chemical weapons, tell us what it is, particularly, about chemical weapons that makes the difference here? because, let's face
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it, the assad renl em has been doing hid -- it, the assad renl em has been doing hid —— regime has been doing hideous things in syria for a long time. children have been dying on camera for a very long time. what's different? what's different about this is that we just found out that he has them. confirmation that supposed declared munitions were not removed from syria or the undeclared munitions were not removed and what's important about that is and why it's a us concern, why it's in us interests, is — what is does a panicked dictator do when he feels he's losing control? he either uses the munitions again? or he gives them to somebody else to use them elsewhere so we take our eye off the ball and focus elsewhere. so the biggest problem is, these munitions, you don't need to launch them from an intercontinental ballistic missile. you can weaponise them by making them improvised weapons explosives and getting them out
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there, so the proliferation concern isa there, so the proliferation concern is a problem to the united states and what does a dictator do when he feels like he's losing power. you've given us a lot of your time and your insights, very grateful to you. we'd like to come back to you. i think that we need to speak to our correspondent, ben james, that we need to speak to our correspondent, benjames, who is on the line from beirut. i'll stand by, thank you. do we have ben? yes, if we have communications with ben. ben, tell us communications with ben. ben, tell us how this is looking from there? hi, there. and yes, this is an attack involving 59 cruise missiles, we understand now. we're also getting word that extra dicts an original report that the us did inform the russian forces of this missile strike on the shayrat air field. this an airfield near homs that was targeting infrastructure, including fuel and the air strip itself there. and of course, targeting that base because this
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could have been the place where president assad's forces launched this attack on khan sheikhun, that precipitated this strike in the first place. and donald trump has been talking about when he was addressing the american public. we don't know exactly what the result has been on the ground so far. the syrian state tv channel has been talking about it describing american aggression, saying that it targeted aggression, saying that it targeted a military base with "a number of missiles", but no further details on exactly what the outcome has been on the ground. donald trump talking about the chemical weapons attack and said, "tonight i call on all civilised nations in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in syria when he was speaking a little earlier on. just on the one point, i mean, there are people, perhaps understandably, saying — hang on, has the united states just declared war on russia and on iran, quite
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apart from syria. the suggestions are emerging strongly from the pentagon that certainly russia and several other countries in the region were given a heads up that this was about to happen and that it would be some kind of contained attack, a tactical, token strike? and this is interesting, because, of course, it's quite difficult to distinguish the different forces taking part in the conflict in syria from each other. it's worth saying that the russian and the syrian air forces are that the russian and the syrian air forces a re pretty that the russian and the syrian air forces are pretty difficult to tell apart when they're flying in the air in syria. they use very similar planes for one thing, so it is certainly an interesting and a present danger that some kind of mix—up could happen and that the americans may target the wrong forces, as they would see it, on the ground. there was an earlier report that russia had not been informed. they have now been disputed that report because according to the latest we have, russia was, indeed,
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informed. they were very much in advance of this happening, playing down the prospect of any sort of military action, seeming to describe it as "unthinkable" before it actually happened, that america would do something like this against the russian ally. other country that is are allies of america, including the uk, were still talking very much about trying to come to some sort of about trying to come to some sort of a diplomatic solution in advance of this, trying to get some kind of un resolution to condemn the gas attack, the chemical attack, on khan sheikhun, that killed so many people that we've been talking lots about in the last few days. what donald trump also said in his statement was that years of previous attempts at changing assad's behaviour have all failed and failed very dramatically. so perhaps that is his thinking about changing course so dramatically tonight. several people making the point that there have been chemical attacks before, thousands of people have died
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before. the assad renl em has been doing terrible things. if this doesn't stop the use of chemical weapons in syria, do you have any sense where this goes next? it's very difficult to tell. you're absolutely right talking about the previous chemical attacks that there have been, and also disputed by the syrian government, but the chemical attack in 2013 on the eastern area close to damascus was the one that led to a big conversation diplomatically about chemical weapons before it crossed the red line that the obama administration described, that they said would lead to some sort of response and punishment if chemical weapons were used. that didn't happen because instead, the us and russia brokered a dealfor assad instead, the us and russia brokered a deal for assad and instead, the us and russia brokered a dealfor assad and russia to declare a stockpile of chemical weapons and looking for the prohibition of chemical weapons. what we saw just a few days
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prohibition of chemical weapons. what we sawjust a few days ago in khan sheikhun could be an indication that either the government has begun to create and manufacture more chemical weapons, or maybe theyjust didn't declare all of them in the first place. other reports also recently of the use of chemical weapons in syria in addition to khan sheikhun and also the un and opcw in a report said that there were three cases in 201a—2015 where they had evidence that chemical weapons were used, even since the decommissioning process , eve n used, even since the decommissioning process, even since the declared stockpile. so this is a very, very different response from the united states on this occasion. we'll see what it leads to. we'll see exactly how much it may have affected and taken out some of the infrastructure that they accuse president assad of using when launching chemical attacks. on that point, it's one thing for us to say that russia was given a heads—up on the attack. russian facilities personnel were not targeted, but as you point out,
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russia was in charge of syria not having chemical weapons any more and has clearly failed. it's odd, isn't it, that more issue is not being taken with it, that more issue is not being ta ken with russia ? it, that more issue is not being taken with russia? and it's interesting that in the statements of donald trump in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack on tuesday, he didn't directly talk about russia himself. some of the other administration colleagues did, including his ambassador to the united nations talking about russia's role, as they would see it in trying to change the course of pd assad's government, trying to affect their behaviour and influence the behaviour. others have been talking about that as a role for the russians as well. the russian defence ministry in the aftermath of what happened in khan sheikhun gave the same version of events as the syrian government did. the syrian foreign minister talking about that yesterday. their version of events says a conventional air strike on khan sheikhun hit a warehouse
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storing chemicals on the ground, a warehouse belonging to opposition forces, parts of the jihadist group that has been linked to al-anda, the al—nusra front as it was known. it's changed its name a couple of times since then. but that was their version of events, the russian and the syrian governments were sticking by those versions of events and saying that it was far too early to judge any link to president assad's government. that's what the kremlin we re government. that's what the kremlin were saying yesterday. so they would see this as premature and not founded on evidence. of course, those people on the ground, the activist, the multiple accounts of doctors in khan sheikhun, would say otherwise. they were talking about the air attack that involved chemical weapons. various international agencies said that sarin gas nerve agent was involved and it was deployed in the air and there is only one force in the area
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that could do that, and, of course, the syrian government has a track record on this and it has declared a stockpile in the past of such weapons and so, therefore, has the means to produce them. they would be the prime suspect. it's a plausible explanation for what happened, the horror in khan sheikhun. the statement just horror in khan sheikhun. the statementjust in from the us military saying, "initial indications are that this strike has severely damaged or destroyed syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at shayrat airfield". we were saying earlier that they targeted the ru nway‘s we were saying earlier that they targeted the runway‘s aircraft and fuel points. rex tillerson, the us secretary of state, of course, not a diplomat or a military man but using this very pentagon language, "we feel that the strike stself was proportionate". that does suggest that this is a token strike, something that is seen as reasonable in the circumstances, if that's a fair way to put it, rather than a whole new us policy in the region? and reasonable as far as they mighting concerned in terms of the political risk in the united states. this is, of course, a missile attack
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from the eastern med terrain yan. this is not deploying thes —— mediterranean. this is not deploying the us airforce mediterranean. this is not deploying the us air force above syria and it is not getting american personnel involved above that battlefield, although, of course, there have been american personnel involved on the other side of syria against the so—called islamic state. and also reading some lines coming through from the governor of the area of syria, the governor of homs, saying that the us attack serves the goals of "armed terrorist groups and islamic state". thatjust coming through on the reuters news agency. so some of the first reaction from syrian government sources on that, the governor of the homs area where this air base is. so we'll continue to monitor exactly what the different reactions are on the ground from the different people involved in this. ben in beirut,
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thank you so much for coming through it and for sticking with it despite the technical difficulties. let's go back to our correspondent in mar—a—lago where donald trump has been meeting the chinese president. picking up on the point, the issue of how this will play, diplomatically and politically, internationally and in the united states. i guess if there is a response from iran as was subjected by michael, he expects through proxies possibly in iraq, things get stickier? there are 5,000 to 7,000 americans in iraq? that's right, that‘s right, 5000— that's right, 5000- 7000 that's right, 5000— 7000 american troops working with the iraqi forces, in iraq, the flight islamic state, especially around mosul at the moment. —— to fight. if the shia militias, backed by iran, start to target them, that would be a throwback to the worst days of the occupation, when these militias were
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targeted by either iranian proxies are by sunni islamists. that's certainly something that the americans wouldn't want to revive. we will see if that happens that's a possible scenario. i not aware that it has been threatened, but it's a possibility. we do have some state m e nts possibility. we do have some statements from the us official. i was listening to you talking about russia with ben.. it is now apparent that russia has failed to uphold the commitments it made in 2013 to ensure the elimination of the syrian chemical weapons programme. russia faces a choice. either it takes responsibility for ensuring that assad complies with the removal of these weapons, as russia committed it would do, or it admits that it lacks the ability to control assad.

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