Last week, President Trump made one of the most significant political U-turns by launching 59 Tomahawk missiles against Syria. The attack was directed at the al-Shayrat air base from which the Syrian Air Force initiated their Sarin gas attack, killing at least 72 innocent civilians. During Trump’s election campaign, one of his main foreign polices was to “stay the hell out of Syria”. Yet, he opted to strike quickly and without hesitation as soon as President Assad of Syria crossed international law and humanitarian lines.
In light of this recent Sarin gas attack, a UN Security Council resolution was sought to investigate this senseless attack. The resolution also demanded that Syria provide the UN with detailed information about its military actions leading up to the gas attack. However, President Trump resorted to military action in addition to the Security Council Resolution. Whether this kind of action was warranted has caused tension between foreign states and the American people. Some argue that the U.S. should not have intervened as they are matters best left to the UN Security Council. Some critics even went as far as saying that World War III could happen over Syria.
Others argue that America’s retaliatory actions were long overdue and that Trump was simply inheriting the aftermath of Obama’s inaction. In 2013, President Obama was confident that the consequences of the Syrian conflict would be contained within its borders. However, the effect of the Syrian conflict was all-encompassing. It became an important issue in the U.S. Presidential election and the root of many terrorist attacks in Europe and in the Middle East. Furthermore, in 2012, President Obama expressly drew Syria a “red line” at using chemical weapons which has now been well and truly crossed. Therefore, some say that Trump had to enforce the repercussions of crossing that ‘red line’ through military action. Obama’s inaction during previous infractions by President Assad has even garnered new criticism in the wake of this recent attack. Last week, officials of the Obama administration took to social media to accuse the Republicans and Congress of hypocrisy. Congress previously refused to authorise similar actions by the Obama administration while Trump was allowed to launch missiles without congressional approval.
Due to the special relationship between Russia and Assad, Russia is also incensed by America’s sudden decision to launch military action against Syria. Russia, along with Iran, even warned that the U.S. are risking military action if they attack Syria again. It is important to note that in 2013, Russia forged a deal with President Assad to remove all chemical weapons. However, it is now apparent that Assad had not stayed true to his promise and consequently, innocent civilians were still paying for it with their lives. U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson spoke of his disappointment by noting that Russia had failed to “monitor that situation” and perform their role as “guarantor” of the 2013 deal.
Trump’s military action in Syria is likely to be a one-off which sends Assad a very clear message of a ‘red line’ which should not be crossed again. Therefore, it is simply an over exaggeration that World War III would be triggered over Syria. It is also significant that many Syrians are full of praise for Trump’s actions. Kassem Eid a Syrian civilian who survived a 2013 chemical gas attack, publicly thanked the Trump administration during an interview with CNN.
However, military action was still highly ill-advised due to the foreign policy disasters that may ensue from such a severe decision. Trump should have stuck to his election promises and sought a more diplomatic resolution through the U.N. Russia should also collaborate with the U.S and U.N. especially after the terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. Notably, President Putin has previously said that Russia’s support for Assad is relative; therefore, it may be time for Russia to re-evaluate its position on Syria for the greater good.
Photo Credit://Ammar Abdullah/Reuters