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tv   BBC News  BBC News  April 14, 2018 10:00am-10:31am BST

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this is bbc news. i'm matthew price, live in beirut. britain, the us and france have hit multiple government targets against president assad in syria. three alleged chemical sites were targeted in an overnight operation — the biggest show of force against the man donald trump described as a "monster". 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. four british tornado jets were involved in the operation — theresa may said there was "no practicable alternative to the use of force". wejudge it we judge it highly likely, wejudge it highly likely, both at the syrian regime has continued to
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use chemical weapons since then and will continue to do so. this must be stopped. the russian military says syrian government forces have shot down more than a dozen of the missiles — russia has warned there will be "consequences". the us and france have the uk in joined forces in strikes in syria. those strikes were conducted in damascus and around the city of homs in the north and they targeted, the allies are saying, military
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facilities. donald trump, the us president has said this will be part ofa president has said this will be part of a sustained campaign involving military action and also involving economic and diplomatic pressure. his own secretary james mattis said that the strikes we saw in the early hours of the morning in the middle east might be a one—off for this moment at least. james mattis describing them as a one—time shot. theresa may said the attacks were designed to deter the use of chemical weapons by the regime of bashar al assad, adding the use of chemical weapons could not become normalised. jeremy corbyn said the action was "legally questionable". the british parliament did not get a chance to vote on whether these attacks should go ahead.
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the raf attacked a suspected chemical weapons base. officials say the mission appears to have been highly successful. we will take a look at all of the events of the last few hours with my colleague ben ando. with afterburners glowing, and loaded with storm shadow cruise missiles, four raf tornadoes take to the sky as britain's contribution to raids overnight in response to syria's alleged use of chemical weapons. their target, a bunker and command post near the city of homs, believed to be the target of stockpiles. night vision appears to show one target being hit. last night's
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strikes by the us, the uk and france we re strikes by the us, the uk and france were significantly larger than the us action a year ago, and specifically designed to have a greater impact on the regime's capability and willingness to use chemical weapons. this collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons. the stand by and tolerate the use of chemicalweapons. the raids stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons. the raids targeted locations on the outskirts of the syrian capital damascus and homs. in washington, president trump sent this message to syrian allies in iran and russia. what kind of 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. other reaction was confined to twitter. russia's us ambassador writing:
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a pre—designed scenario is being implemented, again we are being threatened. we warn such actions will not be left without consequences. nato secretary generaljens stoltenberg tweeted: those using chemical weapons had to be held accountable. the foreign secretary wrote that the world was united in disgust at the use of chemical weapons especially against civilians. there was defiance on the streets of damascus this morning, but the aim of the strikes was to get rid of bashar al—assad's illegal chemical weapons, not his regime. ben ando, bbc news. you heard a little bit about what the various political players in the united states, france and the uk are saying about this. we can go live to washington now and my colleague chris buckler. can you just tidy up, there has been some confusion on
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networks around the world about whether president trump is saying the military action will be sustained, or as a statement pointed out last night, but military, diplomatic and economic pressure would be sustained and that of course is a different thing altogether? it is certainly true to say that the pentagon made clear, when they spoke an hour after donald trump gave his speech, just as missiles were starting to be fired, they said that this was a one—time shot, an indication that this was one of military action and there we re one of military action and there were not plans for any more. in donald trump smack. each, he did talk about being prepared to have a sustained response. —— in donald trump's speech, he talked about a sustained response but he was talking about military, economic and diplomatic response. you could argue that he is still retaining the right to have some kind of military
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intervention again, if bashar al—assad continued to use military weapons as he has done over the past while. certainly, russia continues to deny that is the case. you can see the divide very clearly between the uk, the us and france on one side, and russia, syria and iran on the other. chris, we have got a big satellite line delay, so apologies in the gap in communication between you and me, the people you are talking to in washington, the words coming out from the pentagon and the white house, do they think they have achieved anything with this?” white house, do they think they have achieved anything with this? i think what they have done is they have attempted to try and send a message to president assad, to the syrian regime, but this was designed to be limited. it is significant compared to what happened a year ago, which
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was an attack in the aftermath of the sarin gas attack, and the point was being made at the pentagon today, that doubled the amount of weapons were used in this attack compared to last year. but, there has been an ongoing debate inside the white house, aboutjust what this should be. and there are differing views. some were suggesting that president trump wa nted suggesting that president trump wanted to be more aggressive than this, and there were others who supported him in that. the defence secretary james mattis was one saying it should be more limited. at the same time, it is worth reflecting the president trump was only two weeks ago saying he wanted to get us troops out of syria, to leave syria to other people to sort out, and even in the speech that he gave as these missiles were being launched, he was making very clear that he doesn't the america's presents inside the middle east as one to solve the problems, comdex problems and once he talked about
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very briefly. the reality is president trump was intending to send a message with the strikes come he was not intending to solve the problems of syria. i don't think ultimately there is a wider strategy beyond that, and certainly, that is what some of his opponents in congress are saying. it is although well to have strikes, but do you really have a strategy when it comes to syria? chris buckler in washington, thank you. i am going to ask the same question of our middle east correspondent martin patience who is here. i wasjust asking chris buckler if the white house and others think they have achieved anything. does president assad believe anything has been achieved here? we have heard from the syrian foreign ministry. they put out a statement condemning these air strikes is illegal and they say they have achieved nothing. they have stated that they were doomed to
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failure and then we had the extraordinary video of the syrian president, apparently showing up at the presidential palace, and his message appears to be this is business as usual. i think earlier in the week if we believed the rhetoric than the military action would have been very serious indeed and it ratcheted up tensions across this region. but the military action is precise, everything the rhetoric was not. there was speculation beforehand that maybe they will ramp up beforehand that maybe they will ramp up the casualty count but they haven't, they have said three people we re haven't, they have said three people were injured. that has contrast that with what the uk and france are saying, about six injured. nevertheless they are saying three syrian people injured and no damage. how much credibility should we give the state tv reporting that not much damage was done, that they managed to get some of the missiles out of
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the air before they hit?|j to get some of the missiles out of the air before they hit? i think what is clear is they have had a lot of time to prepare for these missiles strikes. it is a week after the alleged chemical attack in douma. we know they end deed military intelligence buildings. we know also that they moved syrian aircraft from those airfields to a russian base in the north of the country. and the reason they presumably did that if they thought the west would not target the airbase and that is exactly what happened. i think the bigger question is on capabilities, let's not forget syria was supposed to hand over all the chemical weapons in 2013. a year ago we were in similar circumstances to how we found ourselves last night. clearly, the syrian government has the
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capabilities and i think from president assad's point of view, he may well be breathing a sigh of relief. five days ago it looked very serious. a very brief one, the americans, the british and french are saying this is sending a clear message, no more use of chemical weapons. i know you cannot answer this, but i want you to give it a good effort, will president assad listen to that? will he have felt there was enough pressure on him to make him listen? he will factor it in but he will also be heartened by the comments from the british prime minister that this is about chemical weapons, it is not about syria. it is not about regime change, it is not about changing the course of the conflict. martin patience, middle east correspondent, thank you. we will go live now to the raf base in akrotiri in cyprus where another of my colleagues, jonathan beale is right now. jonathan, you were there when the raf tornados took off towards their target. syrian state tv and the syrian army spokesman said earlier this morning, precisely
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talked about the target that the tornadoes were heading towards, just outside the city of homs, tornadoes were heading towards, just outside the city of horns, and said they have managed to knock most of those missiles out of the air. what is the raf‘s take on it? those missiles out of the air. what is the raf's take on it? matthew, you will remember there word two targets at the city of homs. one was eight command control centre believed to be involved in the use of chemical weapons, and then the second strike which the raf carried out with their storm shadow cruise missiles was honoured chemical weapons production facility which had the precursor is for chemical weapons, or where it is believed they had the precursors to produce chemical weapons. what we are getting from the mod is they believed those strikes were highly successful, in the words of the defence secretary gavin williamson. they have not been able to confirm whether they were engaged in the syrian missiles when they were fired
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and reaching their target. we have not had any confirmation from the mod that these were shot down. the implication from the mod is that they hit those targets but the analysis has to go on. we do know that there were attempts by the syrian regime to engage their air defences and to shoot down some of these missiles. we don't have any detail on that but we know there was some attempt. we do not know if it had any impact whatsoever on the military action. do they believe or do they know whether any of that anti—missile fire, rather than being fired by the syrians, was being fired by the syrians, was being fired by the russians on the ground? did the russians get militarily involved in this at all, do you know? i beg your pardon, we appear
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to have lost jonathan know? i beg your pardon, we appear to have lostjonathan beale in cyprus. the british ministry of defence's perspective on all this, a very different perspective in moscow and jonah fisher is in moscow right now. can you bring us up—to—date on what the russians have said? in public they are about happy but privately, behind—the—scenes, do they think president assad has been let off relatively lightly, and therefore that they are not going to be responding? that have been some angry words this morning, posted by senior russian figures, but i think behind the scenes, they will be quietly relieved that this appears to have been a relatively limited strike, that it was targeting facilities relating to chemical weapons and chemical weapons production, and according to the russian ministry of defence hair,
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didn't go anywhere near the russian assets, the russian military positions. they have a naval base as well as forces on the ground. russia has said it did not attempt to use its own missile defences them in syria last night. it did give some details about what it says the syrian military had been up to. there was a briefing today. they say there were about 100 missiles fired into syria last night, and then of that total, the syrian defence are still managed to interceptjust about 70 of those, which seems to be about 70 of those, which seems to be a startling amount, and is certainly a startling amount, and is certainly a numberwe a startling amount, and is certainly a number we cannot verify at the moment, because we have not had any real footage out of what has happened on the ground, and what has been damaged or not damaged, by these strikes overnight. certainly, these strikes overnight. certainly, the russians talking tough, but i think in private probably breathing
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a sigh of relief. i wonder, jonah, i know it is very difficult to interpret what goes on behind the walls of the kremlin, but i wonder if you have any indications how much contact there was between moscow and syria in the days before the strikes? we do know that the united states and russia have what they call a deep infliction line, a line of communication which they have usedis of communication which they have used is the last period of the conflict in syria, to try and make sure their forces and military actions don't come into conflict with each other? it was interesting listening to theresa may's press conference earlier today, she was asked specifically as to whether the russians had been told about what was happening. she did not deny it. she said there was no british channel to the russians, implying
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perhaps this american channel which we know exists, but that full and proper planning was that in place. i think the indications were that there was a lot of communication behind—the—scenes, in the hours and days running up to the strikes, to try and make sure that we did not have that military contact between the american, the british, the french strikes with the russians on the ground in syria. jonah fisher in moscow, thank you. let's zip over to london now to listen to what the british prime minister theresa may had to say. she has said what this is about is not about regime change in syria, it is not about hitting president assad and trying to remove him from power. it is not about intervening in the war either. it is about the international community or
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at least these three countries showing president assad and any other leaders around the world who might be tempted to use chemical weapons, that that cannot happen. theresa may has said we must show the world that it is not normal to use chemical weapons. while this action is specifically about deterring the syrian regime, it will also send a clear signal to anyone else who believes they can use chemical weapons with impunity. there is no graver decision for a prime minister than to commit our forces to combat. and this is the first time that i have had to do so. as always, they have served our country with the greatest professionalism and bravery, and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude. we would have preferred an alternative path, but on this occasion, there is none. we cannot allow the use of chemical weapons to become normalised, either within syria, on the streets of the uk or elsewhere. we must reinstate the global
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consensus, that chemical weapons cannot be used. this action is absolutely in britain's national interest. the lesson of history is when the global rules and standards keep us safe come under threat, we must take a stand and defend them. that is what our country has always done, and that is what we will continue to do. i will take a number of questions. i'll start with laura. thank you, prime minister, laura kuenssberg, bbc news. your logic is chemical attacks must not go unpunished, will you do the same again, if president assad does the same again, as you have suggested he has, and do you feel you have the public‘s consent,
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given that you have not even consulted mps in parliament? as i said in my statement, the purpose of the action that took place last night, was to degrade and deterred the capability and willingness of the syrian regime to use chemical weapons. as i also said, obviously, a full assessment has not yet been completed, but we believe the action was successful. but the syrian regime should be under no doubt of our resolve in relation to this matter of the use of chemical weapons. and i have taken this decision, because i believe it is the right thing to do. i believe it is in our national interest, but i believe it is also important for the international community to be very clear about this issue, that we have seen people appearing to think that they can use chemical weapons with impunity, and we must restore the position,
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that as i said has existed for nearly a century, that the use of chemical weapons is illegal, it is banned and we cannot accept it. that was the british prime minister theresa may in downing street and hour and theresa may in downing street and hourand a theresa may in downing street and hour and a half or so ago. norman smith, our political correspondent is outside downing street. the prime minister, just like donald trump and president macron, making it clear why they did this but also making it sound that this is limited, this was last night, it is not any further for now? i think the thrust of this was all about reassurance, trying to reassure people that britain is not on the cusp of trying to get sucked in to some much wider long—term engagement. again and again, mrs may
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stressed this is not about regime change, it is not about getting rid of president assad, it is not about interfering or trying to rebalance the civil war. it is purely about trying to degrade president assad's chemical weapons stocks. we got some more detail about that, from the missile strikes launched by the british, americans and the french as well from their ships in the mediterranean. they were targeted it seems on a chemical research base and ona seems on a chemical research base and on a chemical storage facility, and on a chemical storage facility, and also won a military command bunker. those were the targets of the attack. mrs may said there were clear boundaries. the thrust of the political message i think was meant to be one of reassurance. interesting to i thought, she did also refer explicitly to the chemical attack in salisbury, with the poisoning of the skripals. that
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was part of the thinking of the joining in with the air strikes last night, to send the message that the use of chemical weapons in any forum is not acceptable. mrs may made clear that the international rules on the use of chemical weapons had held good for 100 years. it was a limited targeted strike on president assad's chemical weapons facility, but it was also designed it send a broader message including to the russians, not to flout international rules on chemical weapons again. that is an interesting point. does that then imply that one of the reasons why britain wanted to be involved with this, to take away all the special relationship stuff and everything, because of what happened in salisbury and a real belief in the prime minister that look, we have got to stop chemical weapons getting into the wrong hands, and if
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anywhere, there are a lot of wrong hands you could potentially get into, it isjust hands you could potentially get into, it is just across the border here in syria ? into, it is just across the border here in syria? clearly formed a part of mrs may's thinking. i think the decision to reference salisbury was also designed to bolster public opinion, to say this affect us in britain very directly to, where we have direct experience of chemical weapons being used in a busy part of britain. i think it was designed almost as a message to voters wondering why are we involved, to say this is one of the reasons why we are involved. it will certainly further damage i expect relations between russia and britain. mrs may seems quite prepared for that, and quite prepared for relations to remain deeply, deeply damaged for a long time to come. the other interesting thing i think we got from mrs may was a pretty clear
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indication that there is not going to bea indication that there is not going to be a retrospective commons vote on last i's attack. we know parliament was not recalled. we know there was not parliamentary approval before the attack. mrs may went out of her way to set out her reasons. she said they had to operate within a time scale, there was a need for speed, she believed it was the right decision. there is no reason why when she goes to the commons on monday she could hold a vote on the decision. she was asked about that and she avoided giving any commitment. i gather she has no intention of holding a retrospective commons vote. that may prove controversial. i will not be supplied when we hear publicly from jeremy corbyn if he demands there is some occasion for mps to vote on they support or do not support that sort of action. mrs may has for the moment said i will go to the commons on monday, mps can question me,
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there is no sign at the moment of any parliamentary vote. norman smith outside downing street, thank you. it is interesting to note that one opinion survey taken in britain a few days ago suggested that one out of five people in the uk supported air strikes. this was before the air strikes took place. four fifth of people do not support them. in france, president macron took this action without going to parliament. congress was not consulted in the united states. president trump pushing ahead with this. it was a white house action, a downing street action and an elysee action. we can get some reaction from someone who knows more about this, jasmine
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el—gamal from the atlantic council. you were in the balmer administration. we have spoken a lot in the last 25 minutes or so, and it is clear that the line out of washington, the line—out of london, the line—up of paris is this has achieved something, it has sent a clear message. do you agree?” achieved something, it has sent a clear message. do you agree? i do not necessarily agree. we do not know what the larger context is. it has sent a message that president trump will do what he says, yes, that was the message sent. in terms ofa that was the message sent. in terms of a larger strategy and goal, i did think any message was sent because it is not clear what the message is. from your knowledge of the syrian government, from president assad, and the way in which he has been conducting this war over the last seven yea rs, conducting this war over the last seven years, do you believe that he will be deterred ? seven years, do you believe that he will be deterred? disinterest in that there was a message that came out of the syrian government earlier today that said this will not stop
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us today that said this will not stop us from continuing to conduct action against terrorists in syria, that suggest they will not be deterred from continuing this campaign of bombings and starving and all of the things they have been doing. they may not use chemical weapons but we cannot tell the shore. this happened last year. a used chemical weapons, we did strikes, and here we are a year later doing the same thing again. of course, it is notjust about chemical weapons in syria, in fa ct, about chemical weapons in syria, in fact, chemical weapons are only a very small part of the violence which is being perpetrated?“ very small part of the violence which is being perpetrated? if you look at the number of people who have been killed in the last seven yea rs have been killed in the last seven years in syria, hundreds of thousands. a fraction have been killed by chemical weapons. people have been brutally murdered, people have been brutally murdered, people have been brutally murdered, people have been starved to death, people have been starved to death, people have been starved to death, people have been tortured to death. it seems like an arbitrary line to draw. has the red line be drawn in the wrong place? i think so. if you we re the wrong place? i think so. if you were still there as syrian country
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director, what would you be advising the department of state?” director, what would you be advising the department of state? i would be advising to do more to stop syrian civilians from being completely displaced and from living through the horrors that they have been living through in the last few yea rs. living through in the last few years. what more could be done?... i was not arguing everfor a ground invasion or any presence on the ground. what i was trying to say yea rs if ground. what i was trying to say years if you are going to conduct strikes, maybe expand the target list little bit rather than just striking chemical weapons facilities. why don't you strike airfield is where aeroplanes are taking off and bombing ambulances as they are going to the scene of an attack. striking ambulances and striking hospitals, that is considered a war crime or released a

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