Global tensions are rising following the United States’ missile attack on a Syrian airbase last week. President Trump said Thursday’s attack on the Shayrat air base, which came without U.S. congressional approval, was a response to a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly launched from the base last week. This attack in Khan Sheikhoun killed 86 civilians, including dozens of children.
International allies of the Syrian government, including Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, have vowed to retaliate against any future attacks against the Syrian regime. On Sunday, the group issued a joint statement saying, “The aggression against Syria oversteps all red lines. We will react firmly to any aggression against Syria and to any infringement of red lines, whoever carries them out.” Over the weekend, Russia also sent a warship armed with cruise missiles to the coast of Syria in response to the U.S. attack.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley now says President Bashar al-Assad’s ouster is inevitable.
Nikki Haley: “So there’s multiple priorities. It’s—getting Assad out is not the only priority. And so what we’re trying to do is, obviously, defeat ISIS. Secondly, we don’t see a peaceful Syria with Assad in there. Thirdly, get the Iranian influence out. And then, finally, move towards a political solution, because at the end of the day this is a complicated situation. There are no easy answers, and a political solution is going to have to happen. But we know that it is not going to be—there is not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime. It just—if you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it’s going to be hard to see a government that’s peaceful and stable with Assad.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to Russia on Tuesday. Ahead of the meeting, Tillerson accused Russia of being partially responsible for the chemical weapons attack, saying, “Either Russia has been complicit or Russia has been simply incompetent.” In Russia, meanwhile, lawmaker Mikhail Yemelyanov has accused the United States of provoking a nuclear war.
Mikhail Yemelyanov: “This act goes far beyond just Syria, because clearly Russia supports the legal Syrian government and takes part to a certain scale in this conflict. Therefore, such strikes are an act not just against Syria, but also against Russia. Moreover, when Americans were striking the airport, they didn’t know if our citizens were there or not. So this situation may lead at least to a repetition of the Cuban missile crisis, which almost pushed the world onto the edge of a nuclear war.”
The U.S. attack on the air base appears to have caused little damage to the Syrian regime’s military capabilities. The government was able to largely evacuate the Shayrat air base before the attack, since the U.S. had warned Russia before the missile strikes. On Friday, only hours after the attack, the base was once again operational, and the Syrian military resumed flights. On Saturday, activists say at least one civilian was killed in airstrikes on a residential neighborhood of Khan Sheikhoun—the same town where the chemical weapons attack occurred on Tuesday. Majed Khattab, a resident of the town, told The Washington Post, “The American strikes did nothing for us. They can still commit massacres at any time.”
Meanwhile, the stocks of the military contractor Raytheon surged following the missile attack, which used 59 of the company’s Tomahawk missiles, estimated to cost $1.4 million apiece. As stocks surged, Raytheon added about $1 billion to its market value Friday morning. According to financial disclosure filings, President Trump personally invests in Raytheon, meaning he profited directly from the attack.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has imposed a three-month state of emergency, after bombings at two Coptic Christian churches killed at least 49 people during Palm Sunday services.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi: “Several steps are to be taken, the first of which will be the declaration of a state of emergency, after the necessary legal and constitutional procedures are complete, for three months in Egypt. We are announcing this state of emergency only to protect our country and secure it, and to prevent any interference with it.”
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the St. George’s Coptic church in the northern city of Tanta and the St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria. The state of emergency gives el-Sisi’s government even further power to continue its crackdown against human rights activists and journalists. It allows the government and its security forces to surveil all communications, confiscate property, arrest anyone suspected of violating the state of emergency laws and shut down media outlets. On Sunday, Christians mourned the victims of the bombings. This is a priest in Tanta, Tawfik Kobeish.
Tawfik Kobeish: “Believe me, it’s a miserable and painful feeling to go through this cruel experience. We were not expecting people who live with us in the same country, people whom we’ve shared love and friendships with, and whom we’re familiar with, to do these things.”
The Pentagon is sending an aircraft carrier and several warships toward the Korean Peninsula in a major escalation of the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea. The decision to deploy the aircraft carrier, known as the Carl Vinson, and three guided-missile destroyers and cruisers to the peninsula came only days after North Korea launched its latest ballistics missile test. This missile reportedly flew only 37 miles.
NBC News is reporting, citing unnamed military officials, that the National Security Council has presented President Trump with a series of options on North Korea, which include deploying U.S. nuclear weapons to South Korea’s Osan Air Base. This would mark the United States’ first overseas nuclear deployment since the end of the Cold War. Another option reportedly presented to President Trump is the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
In Washington, D.C., Neil Gorsuch is being sworn in as a Supreme Court justice today. Chief Justice John Roberts will administer the oath. On Friday, Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate in a 54-45 vote, after Republican lawmakers invoked the so-called “nuclear option”—changing the Senate’s rules in order to allow Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority.
Gorsuch has a long history of ruling against workers in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political discrimination and retaliation claims. His confirmation was opposed by Democratic lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Sen. Chuck Schumer: “I hope Judge Gorsuch has listened to our debate here in the Senate, particularly about our concerns about the Supreme Court increasingly drifting towards becoming a more pro-corporate court that favors employers, corporations and special interests over working America.”
Neil Gorsuch will fill the seat left vacant more than a year ago after Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016. Senate Republicans refused to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland. Gorsuch’s swearing-in today will end the longest Supreme Court vacancy since 1862.
The journalistic monitoring group Airwars says dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed in Iraq over the last week by airstrikes carried out by either the U.S.-led coalition or the U.S.-backed Iraqi military. On April 4, 20 civilians, including children, were reportedly killed in west Mosul by airstrikes. The next day, on April 5, more than 25 civilians were reportedly killed by multiple airstrikes on neighborhoods across west Mosul. Another airstrike that same day on Anbar Province reportedly killed eight civilians, including four children. Also on April 5, airstrikes on a village to the northwest of Mosul reportedly killed up to 40 civilians. The airstrikes are part of the U.S. and Iraqi militaries’ months-long campaign to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS.
In Somalia, at least 15 people were killed in a car bombing targeting senior military officials in the capital Mogadishu Sunday. The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, which destroyed a minibus carrying civilians, killing everyone on board.
In Kashmir, Indian security forces killed at least eight civilians on Sunday, after the soldiers opened fire on protesters demonstrating against Indian rule of the territory. The demonstrations came during an election to fill a parliament seat, which was made vacant after a lawmaker resigned in protest of the killing of civilians during last summer’s crackdown by Indian security forces in Kashmir.
In Sweden, thousands of people gathered Sunday in Stockholm’s central square to commemorate the victims of an attack on Friday, in which four people died and 15 more were injured after a man drove into a crowd of people. The police say the suspected attacker was an Uzbek asylum seeker whose application had been rejected and who had been given four weeks to leave the country in December. Authorities say the man, who has been arrested, had shown support for extremist groups, such as ISIS.
Pentagon officials say a U.S. Special Forces soldier was killed in Afghanistan over the weekend. The soldier, who has not been identified, was killed Saturday night in Nangarhar Province. Pentagon officials say the death came as the U.S. and Afghan military were carrying out a joint operation against militants affiliated with ISIS in Achin district.
In Texas, thousands of people rallied in downtown Dallas on Sunday to protest President Trump’s plans for mass deportations, as well as his failed attempts to ban refugees and people from some majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States. This is civil rights activist Martin Luther King III, speaking at the rally.
Martin Luther King III: “What is important about this demonstration, in my judgment, is it’s Christians, it’s Muslims, it’s Jews, it’s Hindus, it’s people who may not have a belief, but the fact that people, Americans, are coming together saying we, as America, can and must do better.”
Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed legislation that dramatically pushes education privatization by making every one of Arizona’s public school students eligible to receive state money to attend a private or religious school. The legislation was approved by the Arizona House and Senate with no support from a single Democratic lawmaker. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a major backer of these types of private school voucher programs, which divert public funding out of the public school system.
In more education news, New York state is making tuition free at public universities for families with an annual income of under $125,000. The free tuition plan, which will be phased in over the next three years, will cover all City University of New York and State University of New York colleges and universities. The governor’s office says the plan will affect nearly 1 million families across New York state.
And an update to a case we’ve been following: One of New York’s best-known immigrant rights advocates will not face deportation tomorrow. Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition, had been ordered to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tuesday—even though he reported for another check-in just last month, accompanied by several city councilmembers and a state senator as hundreds rallied outside. Officials now say he can check in next January. This is Ragbir describing how accompaniment works.
Ravi Ragbir: “When we partner U.S. citizens with immigrants who are in this crisis—not only for myself, for many others—they are able to get the support from the community, and so they are not in this fearful space, but also getting the officers to treat that person with respect.”
Faith groups are planning to hold an interfaith Seder Tuesday morning at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City to call for lasting immigration reform.