Murari Sharma: Whiter Syria

US President Donald Trump ordered the US military to lob 59 Tomahawk missiles into the President Assad-controlled Syria after it was alleged that the Assad regime used chemical weapons to kill nearly 80 of his enemies and innocent Syrians. It has put Washington and Moscow on the collusion course once again and made Syria’s future a lot more uncertain and more precarious than ever before.

If you thought the Cold War is over, think again. It has resurfaced in several countries, including in Ukraine and Syria. In Syria, President Baser al-Assad is trying to hold onto power with the support of Russia and Iran, while the West is trying to remove him with the help of Syria’s Sunni neighbors. In an effort to scare off the rebels, the Assad regime allegedly used chemical weapons in the rebel-held territory, inviting Trump’s missile strikes.

But the facts are not straightforward, though. In politics, they seldom are. International politics lacks factual basis further under the thick cloud of nationalism and national interests. While Western powers have implicated the Assad regime, the other side has blamed the rebels for using the chemical weapons. Independent verification is difficult to achieve more often than not. The Western narrative has covered the global media.

The reaction to President Trump’s order to strike Syrian military facilities has been mixed. The majority of Americans (51 percent) have welcomed the attack. The minority have doubts about the attack that does not have any strategy or goal behind it other than one-time punishment for the Assad regime. Similarly, world opinion is divided as well, especially because the strikes took place without UN authorization.

Former US President Barack Obama had desisted from engaging in military action against the Syrian regime for the lack of a good option. The American people are not eager to put the boots to the grounds abroad. Airstrikes alone would not push President Assad out, the American goal from the beginning. It appears President Trump has waded into Syria without any strategy, unless one is on the anvil as we speak.

Even if there was a strategy, it would be difficult to implement if Trump is indebted to Moscow for his election. Trump would be unwilling to move aggressively if Russia, which is supporting the Assad regime, had indeed helped him get elected to the White House. Congress is investigating the Russian interference in the US presidential elections.

Russia has fully supported the Assad regime with airpower and logistics. If  Russians helped Trump into the White House, Trump would think twice before he does anything to rub Russian President Putin the wrong way. An angry Putin will certainly spill the bins, leading to the ouster of Trump through impeachment. Trump would be stupid to stir such a firestorm.

And the pointers are not good for Trump. Trump himself publicly had called on Russians to hack into his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails during the presidential campaign. He has made conflicting claims about his meeting with Russian President Putin in the past: He has met with Putin and not met with Putin.

Trump’s advisers have been in cahoots with Russians. His first National Security Adviser Flynn resigned due to his Russian connections. Paul Manaford, Trump’s former campaign manager with deep connections with Russia, is planning to register as a foreign agent, according to the Guardian.

Even a reckless maverick like Trump would not want to shoot himself in his foot.

That makes Syria’s and Assad’s future all the more uncertain. Assad will be difficult to remove because of the support he is receiving from Russia and Iran. The West, which is supporting the rebels, would not rest until Assad is gone. Unfortunately, the American airstrikes have emboldened the rebels without intimidating Damascus, Moscow and Tehran.

This means further escalation in the conflict, more bloodshed and more misery for the Syrian people, and more devastation of the country. Using force to change the regime of another country is wrong no matter who does it. If a situation warrants a humanitarian intervention under international law, then it must be swift and effective, so people do not have to endure unnecessarily prolonged misery.

The American airstrikes are wrong on the first count and do not meet the test of the second requirement. Yet the present occupant of the White House launched the one-time attack. This twitter master has often been whimsical and irrational so far. Until proven otherwise, there is no evidence that he is going to be consisten this time around. So the Trump’s airstrikes will make the Syrian conflict worse, with no end in sight.

That is indeed sad for the Syrian people, the rest of the world, and humanity as a whole.


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