Opinion: After the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its own people once again, the United States, France, and the UK conducted a joint air strike against three different targets in Syria — each of which was related to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
The three targets were destroyed, but were the Syrian chemical weapons research programs actually set back years? With the ability to deliver chemical weapons severely downgraded? No. And a bombing or missile campaign is quite unlikely to achieve that goal.
These are facts. Some of the tin-foil hat wearers out there are screaming that no proof exists that the Assad regime was responsible for this latest atrocity on his country. After the civil war began in Syria in 2011, Assad has regularly used chemical weapons on his own people. No proof?
Some Pentagon experts on WMD (weapons of mass destruction) have put the number of chemical attacks since 2012 conducted by the Assad regime around 200. After the nerve gas attack of last year, the U.S. unilaterally launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the base where the attacks came from. Did the U.S. punitive action have the desired effect?
The Syrian chemical weapons capability was put out of action for only about six-to-eight weeks. Since then, they’ve conducted 20 more chemical attacks. The strikes were far too limited in their scope to have any long, far-reaching effects on the use of these weapons nor on Assad himself.
People ask why? Why would they use these awful weapons against people? Because they are effective, they terrorize the civilian populace and Assad, as well as his cronies in Moscow and Tehran have a very high tolerance for atrocities against the civilian populace so long as the results meet with their aims.
After the Sarin gas attack of last year, the rebel forces in the area that was gassed soon surrendered. Mission accomplished for Assad. The Russians don’t care, they’re quite willing to use nerve agents in foreign countries to kill ex-spies against the Kremlin. See the two assassination attempts in the United Kingdom.
The Iranians? They control the Palestinians thru Hamas which isn’t a Palestinian organization but one in Tehran. Hezbollah, another Iranian proxy in Lebanon similarly takes its orders from Tehran. Which is why the Hamas/Hezbollah rocket launches at Israel always seem to be right between civilian apartment buildings. When the Israelis conduct counter-fire operations against the rocket launchers, there is a ready supply of civilian deaths that they use for their own purposes.
And after the limited strikes of a year ago, the coalition of the U.S., France and the U.K had to act. And again, opposition parties in the U.S. and the U.K are decrying the illegality of without going thru Congress/Parliament. It is a crock of bull. The same thing happened in reverse in 2013 when President Obama did much the same thing.
These opposition “leaders” scream about “no proof” and call for the United Nations to act but had the three countries stood idly by, as much of the world has since 2102, they’d be the first calling for action. The U.N. and the U.N Security Council is completely ineffective and powerless to stop anyone from doing anything. But we digress.
Why did the attacks do little other than to “put Assad on notice” that these chemical attacks won’t be tolerated? First, as we stated above, the targeting of chemical weapons launchers are very hard to eradicate strictly by a bombing campaign. The larger stockpiles can be, but in this case, how badly were the Syrian military units hit?
In truth? Not that bad at all. Secretary Mattis stated, as did General Dunford at the Pentagon, that the planners went to great lengths to limit civilian casualties. So any targets close to civilian areas were not targeted.
And with four days from when the story broke until the missile attacks began, gave the Syrians plenty of time to spread out their stockpiles. The Russians knew what was to come and sent their ships out to sea.
The Syrians moved their aircraft onto Russian bases because they knew the Coalition wouldn’t risk escalating the tensions with the Russians. And destroying any Russian aircraft and the killing of any of their troops would be too dangerous a proposition. Despite the threats the Russians have made about targeting any aircraft or launchers, they did nothing because, in truth, they’ve won.
Both President Trump, Prime Minister May and President Macron made it clear, that a regime change wasn’t the goal of the attack. Assad has stabilized his hold on the country. This attack was even smaller than most civilians in Damascus expected, so they poured into the streets and celebrated the aftermath like a great victory.
After President Trump tweeted to Russia to “Get ready” for the “missiles coming for Syria,” the Assad regime had four days to move any of their research materials or back them up on secure servers elsewhere. The buildings were certainly destroyed as we’ve seen. But the casualties were very low, probably because they had already emptied their buildings, regardless of the 4 a.m. hour.
So Assad’s regime lost a few buildings in the process but their actual chemical weapons capability hasn’t degraded much, if at all. And he knows, that he can and will get away with smaller attacks in the future, despite the proclamation by the United States U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley who said the U.S. was locked and loaded for another strike if Assad uses chemical weapons in the future.
Was the strike the right thing to do? Absolutely, the coalition even got the blessing of Turkish President Erdogan who has blasted the United States for nearly everything the past few years. “With the joint operation by US, UK and France … the Syrian regime received the message that its massacres wouldn’t be left unanswered,” Erdogan said.
“The innocent Syrian people should have been defended long ago. I am calling on the entire world here. Let’s discuss the future of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and conventional weapons in detail, he added.”
“Let’s use all resources for the sake of humanity instead of using them for nuclear and conventional armament projects.”
But will this change anything in Syria? Not much, if at all. The only options are to use the strikes again if need be and use political power to ostracize and sanction both politically and economically the regimes in Moscow and Tehran.
Will Assad use chemical weapons again? Without a doubt, then the U.S., France and the UK will have more decisions to make.