US President Donald Trump has recently authorized a direct missile attack targeting Syria’s military infrastructure.
News sources say 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched towards the Sharat airbase near Homs. This location allegedly housed the airplanes which carried out the chemical attacks.
The decision was made following Assad’s alleged use of banned chemical weapons. The attack resulted in 86 dead (including 27 children) and over 500 wounded. The chemical weapon used in the attack was the banned nerve agent sarin gas. It has not yet been proven that Assad was responsible for this attack. Indeed, ISIS has been held responsible for carrying out such attacks in the past.
Following the missile attack, Trump arranged a very solemn press conference statement, in which he seemed emotionally stricken by the events that transpired within the past couple days.
“Assad choked out the lives of helpless men women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many, even beautiful babies, (who) were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer should ever suffer such horror,” said a visceral Trump who has shown a relative indifference to Assad’s actions in Syria up until now.
Trump, in a sudden 180 from his non-interventionist foreign policy also concluded that, “it is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” He added on to his point saying that as a “result (of these attacks) the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”
Trump outlined the fact that Syria, under Assad, used banned chemical weapons and in doing so, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, a guideline created by the OPCW – the world’s watchdog on chemical weapons.
Trump also said Syria ignored the urging of the UN security council, who strongly warned against going through on such actions. Currently, the Council includes Syrian allies Russia and China.
The Syrian state news agency is currently reporting that 9 people were killed – including 4 children, however the Pentagon has strongly averred that no civilians were targeted. The Pentagon also stated that Russian forces were contacted prior to the attack and were told to evacuate the area.
A U.S defense official from Reuters was quoted as saying this strike was a “one-off” attack.
Certainly, this marks a change in US policy towards Syria. Obama, who led a global coalition against ISIS in Syria, allegedly tasked the coalition in only attacking and eliminating ISIS. Russia and Syria have disputed this claim, saying that the US-led coalition attacked members of the Syrian army and were not solely attacking ISIS.
Regardless, this is the first time that the military infrastructure of Syria has openly (not under the guise of attacking ISIS) been attacked by the United States- a move that had not been done by Obama.
Indeed, this signals a powerful change in Trump’s policy who, in the past, criticised Obama for his wasteful, expensive moves in Syria. Throughout his presidential campaign, Trump said he would ‘get out of Syria’ and would focus on a non-intervention, protectionist policy.
A lot of Trump supporters are questioning the decision of the Commander-in-Chief, however, it seems in this situation, Trump’s hand was forced. Facing the pressure of being too weak in the Middle-East, along with Russian collusion and hawkish Senators like Lindsay Graham and John McCain clamouring over the situation, Trump seems to have made a decision which, while violating a country’s sovereignty, has alleviated the worries of many doubters.
If this is a one-off attack as the defense official said, than it seems the move by Trump was prudent and necessary. A relatively minor attack such as this would only elicit complaints or warnings from Russia and Syria, is unlikely to escalate any tensions, and erases illusions of US’s faltering influence in the Middle-East.
However, continued military activity within Syria, without approval from Assad to come in and destroy ISIS, could prove to be risky decision making on Trump’s part. Doing this would alienate a lot of his fan-base – many of whom who voted for him based on his non-interventionist stance. It would also raise a lot of doubts amongst his supporters, as following through on foreign military intervention questions the legitimacy and honesty of his campaign promises.
Furthermore, overthrowing Assad or attempting to, would antagonize Russia, as they have proven they will take serious measures to prevent this from happening. Further intervention could lead to escalated tensions between the US and Russia. The removal of a stable government in Syria would also create a serious vacuum of power in the country, similar to that of Iraq and Libya, further destabilizing the region.
As of right now, all eyes are currently on Trump. He should keep in mind that his fan-base will be quick to turn on him should he continue on the path of foreign intervention. However, it’s important that all chemical weapons in Syria are destroyed as well. Perhaps an agreement between Russia and the US can be made, similar to that of the one in 2013.