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April 30, 2018 | by  | in News |
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US, France, and UK Launch Air Strikes in Syria

On 13 April the US, France, and the UK decided to launch a fusillade of over 100 cruise missiles at various sites in Syria, in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma on 7 April. The strikes were, according to the UK’s Minister of Defense Gavin Williamson, to “degrade Syria’s ability to manufacture and deploy chemical weapons”. This is a reason one has trouble squaring with the facts on the ground. Even if Russian and Syrian claims of having shot down most of the missiles were true, a hundred odd cruise missiles are unlikely to do much to a regime such as that of Mr Assad, especially with his Russian and Iranian backers footing the bill.

One of the more amusing episodes in this little saga was being able to follow the course of the decisions being taken in Washington, thanks to Trump and his notoriously loud Twitter mouth. Generally, it is considered poor form to give the enemy a heads up that you’re going to bomb them a week before you do it. Not to mention the irony of when Trump publicly bashed Obama for not being discreet enough when he launched an assault on Mosul in 2016. The culmination of the strike was then followed by his rather vainglorious tweet of “mission accomplished” – one would have thought after the shit copped by Bush for that infamous gaff in the wake of the Iraq War, of appearing on an aircraft carrier with a “mission accomplished” banner, even Trump would know not to do something quite so dull-witted.

The strike did however highlight a rather concerning element to how the Atlantic powers interact, aside from their disdain of international law, in that their alliance is so heinously unbalanced due to America truly footing the bill for the attack with France and, in particular, Britain making a more token showing. The British PM Theresa May’s rather pitiful contribution of a handful of Storm Shadow cruise missiles, in what was essentially a Franco-American operation, managed to garner some rather unflattering jokes about Britain’s “FOMO”.

It is worth pausing to reflect on the danger of contagion from this kneejerk attack. Not only did the Western powers act unilaterally in bombing Syria, but they appear to have recklessly ignored the repercussions it is bound to cause. Mr Borzou Daragahi, of Foreign Policy magazine, astutely points out how Iranian-backed Shiite militias are now actively planning to turn their guns on US assets in the region, with one called “The Bakir Brigade” announcing their decision to start a shooting match with the Americans over its Facebook page. Another key development is Russia’s response to the attack. Having forgone shooting down any of the missiles, a response was nonetheless promised and apparently it is now on its way in the form of S-300 surface-to-air missile batteries being delivered gratis by the Kremlin to the Syrian army, reports Haaretz. Something that is unlikely to amuse the Israelis who have thus far enjoyed carte blanche in their access to Syrian skies to conduct raids.

The most interesting aspect of this strike though was not so much the strike itself, which was barely more than a rap on the knuckles, but that it was so detested by all parties. Obviously, the Russians, Syrians, and Iranians cried foul from the get go, but the British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn was anything but on board. Equally, members of the US Congress were furious about Trump’s unilateral move, notably Democrat members, who have demanded subsequent actions be authorized by Congress – a privilege that Congress abrogated itself of quite some time ago.

Funnily enough the “Syrian opposition” were also scathing in their response to the attack, noting that the strikes were of such paltry significance they would have no material impact on the outcome of the war, something that at best can be said to be looking exceedingly gloomy for the rebel forces. Indeed, one rebel commander went so far as to suggest that if anything this attack will only encourage Mr Assad in the future in that he can now see, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the so called “red line” of chemical weapons being used is unlikely to attract any meaningful response.

Over all one is dubious that this piddling show of force, done in a fit of pique, will achieve anything bar getting some vaguely favourable news column inches. But who knows, after all, the only thing that is definite is that nothing is definite in this tumultuous region of the world.

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