Source: IHS Jane’s Conflict Monitor as of April 4 and The Washington Post
Major General S B Asthana,SM,VSM
On April 04, 2017, the humanity was shamed when 86 civilians including innocent women and children succumbed to a tragic painful death, due to a chemical attack involving use of banned Sarin gas. As per US, the culprit was Assad regime; hence it felt justified to attack the Syrian airfield allegedly used for air attack discharging chemical weapons and punished Syrian Regime, without waiting for any UN Security Council Resolution or UN Investigation Report. As per U.S. officials a total 59 Tomahawk missiles were launched from destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross from the Mediterranean Sea on April 06, 2017. The strikes were aimed at the Shayrat Air Base in Syria, which has been one of Russia’s main airfields in Syria. The Syrians claimed to have lost six people dead and several injured, besides “big material losses.” in this attack. The incident, seemingly small in military dimension, has many serious global implications, which are worth analysis.
What it means for US?
Most of the US allies have supported it for various reasons. Although no sane mind will dispute that the guilty must be punished, however this attack throws up certain difficult questions, the answers of which will emerge as time goes by, to decide whether the action was appropriate, or a premature strategic error. Let me enumerate some of them.
• Who decided that Assad Regime was the culprit? In absence of any UN investigation Report, the unilateral verdict of US to hold Syrian Regime responsible is likely to be viewed with suspicion. The US has been trying a regime change in Syria for a long time; hence it may be a good excuse to shake them, by such a prompt action.
• Has the Trump Administration grabbed a good opportunity to prove to American voters that he is not pro- Russia? (An allegation he has been battling with, post elections -Reiterating the US stand at NATO the US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had stated in Belgium on March 31 that the “NATO alliance is also fundamental to countering both non-violent, but at times violent, Russian agitation and Russian aggression.” Click here for more).
• Is US reminding the world that they have not given up the role of ‘Global Policeman’?
• With similar logic the US and its allies attacked Iraq, alleging it to have ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’. Later after innumerable casualties, regimes change (one of their Agenda), they could not find WMD’s and realized that the peace in the region disappeared, and the region got pushed into the most dangerous form of terrorism to include the caliphate of IS. Wasn’t it a strategic error in hindsight?
• Is Trump Administration signaling the display of will to use military power to some global players and countries like North Korea and Iran, which are uncomfortable to US? Is it to gain its ‘Sole Superpower’ status back?
What it means for Russia?
Russia and few more countries like Bolivia have opposed the unilateral action in the emergency UN Security Council Meeting on April 07, 2017. President Putin considers American strikes on Syria an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of international norms, and under an invented pretext,” Peskov was reported saying by Russian agencies. Russia has suspended an agreement to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between U.S. and Russian aircraft operating over Syria, in retaliation. This is not a good sign for world peace and may amount to further heating of cold war. China has also been supporting Russian view in Syrian conflict.
What it means for Syria and IS?
Syria has been bearing the brunt of US annoyance from the time Assad came to power, but they have been able to bear it with support from Russia. An action of this kind to weaken Syria may embolden ISIL to gain some lost ground. Will it make US citizens and diasporas safer or otherwise? only future will reveal. The war in Syria might turn hotter with US and Russians targeting groups, which are pro or against Assad respectively, shifting their joint focus away from IS, which is dangerous for the world .
What it means for UN, Global Community and India
The relevance of UN and Security Council once again comes under question, with one more unilateral action after Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen (Saudi Arabia), Ukraine/Crimea etc. It may encourage other powers like China to follow. India also needs to rethink that its struggle for becoming a permanent member of Security Council is really of some use or otherwise.
I am sure that everyone’s sympathies and solidarity with the innocent people who were killed in chemical attack will demand the strictest possible action against the culprits, but the debate on its methodology will continue to be a subject of debate for a long time.
(You can connect with the author on Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter as Shashi Asthana)