Syria’s chemical weapons facilities hit by 100 missiles
It was President Bush who first brought in the phrase, ‘Mission Accomplished,’ during the very early days of the start of Iraq war. Except that the war went on for eight more years.
So the use of this phrase by President Donald Trump, soon after United States, Britain and France delivered over 100 missiles at Syria’s chemical weapons facilities, has met with much derision from the American public.
Could strikes at the Chemical weapons ( WMD ) facilities bring about end to the use of chemical weapons by Bashar Assad of Syria or enlarge the conflict, bringing in Russia and Iran into the it, is the moot point and presently much under discussion, here in America. After all Russia and Iran are more interested in keeping Assad in power and continue to provide finances and weapons to him.
President Donald Trump on announcing these strikes had suggested that more American action could be on the way. "We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops use of prohibited chemical agents.”
Though he had earlier wanted to pull out American troops ( 2000 in number ) from Syria and made it clear, while announcing these strikes, that it is not the job of America to fix problems in the Middle East. Though it may be recalled that it is America that brought about this turmoil and destabilization in the Middle East.
Trump by now is well known for his flip - flop on a range of issues. Officials in Pentagon as well as those in Britain and France too are of the view that greater involvement in Syria is not necessary, as the same carries the dangers of escalation of the ongoing conflict. At the American end both the Defence Secretary, James Mattis and Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee General Joseph Dunford exercise sobering influence on Trump: not withstanding Bolton recently joining Trump’s team.
However this type of military intervention, which involves only missile attacks has a limited value and short shelf life and equally less risk of escalation. Last years strikes too had the same goal and Syria yet again used these chemical weapons against civilians on April 7, 2018. Senator Lindsey Graham of Republican Party fears that, once the dust settles, this strike will be seen as a weak military response and Bashar Assad would have paid a small price for using chemical weapons, yet again.
For Assad it appears to be a calculated and limited cost of using chemical weapons against the rebels. In all probability there is enough residual capability with Syria to use these weapons again. In any case this missile attack was intended to degrade Assad’s ability to launch a chemical weapons attack and deter him from using these weapons and not complete destruction of all of the stocks with Syria.
Military Strikes, though limited in scope and span, have some value and does impose some restrain and caution on use of chemical weapons and other atrocities against civil population. In any case international law forbids the use of chemical weapons and thus there is some justification in American retaliation.
Earlier the ‘Red Line’ drawn by Barak Obama in 2013 against use of chemical weapons by Syria did not hold out, essentially because of American failure to fully enforce it.
Russian officials claim that at one Syrian air base, all 12 cruise missiles that targeted this base were shot down at a particular target area: though this claim is denied by America. Equally it is well known that Russia has an effective anti-missile system in place, especially at bases where its troops and aircrafts are located. The larger issue that should concern the world is the scope and dimensions of the conflict getting enlarged, drawing Russia and Iran into it.
The use of chemical weapons by Syria was not raised in the United Nations by America for the reason that any action by United Nations would have been vetoed by Russia. Similarly when Russia raised the issue of targeting of Syrian locations by America and others, it was dropped without any outcome. It may be recalled that Russia had failed by its promise in 2013 to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile but on the other hand continues to supply more chemical weapons.
Sections in America believe that an attempt should be made to support regional opponents of Iranian imperialism and turn Syria into Iran’s Vietnam. It is only when Iran and Russia have to pay heavy price for their continued involvement in Syria that they might agree to a negotiated settlement of the ongoing conflict.
The other possibility being projected here in the United States is to divide the country into ethnic based enclaves as was done in Iraq. By imposing a no fly zone similar to one brought about in Northern Iraq that protected Kurdish areas from attack by Saddam Hussein may work for Sunni dominated areas. Such a plan worked for a decade, allowing Kurds to build the most prosperous, pro American part of Iraq.
Though at the face of it such a move will require considerable diplomacy and persuasion and commitment on the Part of American President, which in itself is highly suspect. Though large scale restrictions on trade and other such measures against Iran, Syria and Russia may work to bring Syrian turmoil under control.
The current attempt seems to be to involve other Sunni Arab States in the Middle East in this conflict and eventually pull out American troops. Saudi Arabia Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman has already indicated his willingness to participate in military operations against Assad.
Though of course, no one can be sure as to what course President Donald Trump will finally adopt.
(Lt. General Harwant Singh is retired from the Indian Army)