By Syed Fraz Hussain Naqvi.
The suspected Chemical Attack in the opposition held Syrian city, Idlib, on April 4 again brought the Syrian War Players to the edge of another conflict. But why is the term “suspected” being used? There is a confusion regarding “who” carried out that attack. The international community is dubious about the one who is responsible for carrying out this attack. Still U.S navy warships rushed to strike the Air Base of Syrian Army. This has elicited the tensions among the regional players. Where Israel and Saudi Arabia welcomed the strikes, Russian and Iran, on the other hand, vigorously reacted against it. The article is meant to investigate two things. In the first portion, the relation of Syrian Government with the chemical attack shall be discussed while in the second part, the validity of U.S strikes and their outcomes shall be conferred.
The September 2013 deal assured the destruction of the stockpile of Chemical Weapons possessed by the Syrian Government. There were several occasions on which the former U.S Administration claimed to confiscate the Syrian Chemical Weapons with the help of Russia. The then Secretary of State, John Kerry, in July 2014 exclaimed with adeptness that the deal was reached out in which the 100% of the weapons would be removed. His claims were later on authenticated by the then President, Barack Obama, in the following month while claiming that the task of removing the lethal weapons had been done by U.S military professionals several weeks before the schedule. If this all was true then it totally defies the U.S position on this incident and strengthens the blames of Russia and Iran which believe that this is the act on the behalf of terrorists i.e. U.S backed “moderate rebels”. Previously, in 2013, the leading member of UN Investigative Committee, Carla Den Ponte, indicated the use of chemical weapons by rebels. All these substantial evidences depict another story. It seems illogical that the government might have used chemical weapons against civilians when it already has freed Aleppo and set the rebels to the retreating path.
Ironically, the time of the attack raises doubts over U.S claims. Just a week earlier before the attack, U.S Ambassador to UN, Nikki Haley said that U.S was not focused on removing Assad. Under these circumstances, the attack provided rationale to U.S to intervene in Syria. When the indirect approach to outburst Assad by backing rebels failed, U.S strategized to act with direct offense. It seems that the policy which Bush Administration had implemented back in 2003 in case of Iraq was revised by Donald Trump against Syria. It is also worth noticing that approximately just three weeks before, U.S air strikes killed around 220 civilians, including women and children, in Mosul. The humanitarian loss was about three times greater than the loss caused by the chemical attack. But the silence from Trump Administration exposed the priorities and hypocritical attitude. There is a possibility that the attack on Idlib might be the diversion from U.S negligence in Mosul. Still, whatever the case may be, the direct relation of Assad Regime with the chemical attack is nowhere to be found.
Since the guilty of the chemical attack is yet to be decided, the Trump call for inflicting strikes against the Syrian Air Base especially without taking into account the congress cannot be justified at any extent. Bernie Sanders questioned the legal responsibility of this action without congressional involvement. While others explicitly termed it as unlawful. According to U.S legal system, the President needs to seek the approval from Congress under AUMF (authorization of use of military force). Ironically, Trump opposed the airstrikes of Obama Administration targeted at ISIS in 2013 without congress permission. However, President Trump didn’t find it necessary for himself to strive for the permission. Public outrage was also observed who opposes yet another indication of U.S military intervention. Many cities observed the mass protests by the citizens holding the play cards “No War on Syria”.
But this is not all, Russia has threatened that the next U.S attack on Syria would not go unanswered. Vladimir Putin called it as “the act of aggression” and “the violation of international law”. Similarly, it prompted North Korea as well who believes that the recent strikes was an indirect message to it. Iran feels that the strikes would have dire consequences and would give encouragement to ISIS and other terrorist organizations. Similarly, the appreciation of U.S strikes by Saudi Arabia and the opposition of Iran has opened a new chapter in the dynamics of proxy war in Middle East. Such acts of offense against Syrian State will disturb the prevailing status quo which is already being deteriorated. Moreover, such direct interventions might be proved beneficial for the terror outfits like ISIS and Al-Nusra Front.
Through the critical analysis of all the developments which have been proceeding for the past 5-6 days, we find America at the very same juncture from where it left its intervention of Middle East. The operation of 2003 is being repeated under the different cover. The excuse is same, the purpose is identical, the motive is alike and in such state of affairs, the outcome, most likely, would be the same as well i.e. the failure of U.S troops and the political chaos in Middle East. U.S is overlooking the participation of regional and global powers like Russia and Iran. Unlike Iraq of Saddam, Syria of Assad is not alone at least. Assad enjoys complete and the direct support of both of these countries. Similarly, the Syrian situation is the extension of a greater conflict which has its roots in Iraq as well. The existence of ISIS is the common issue of both Syria and Iraq. Operating against Assad would indirectly facilitate ISIS purpose and would eventually devour the victories of Iraqi Army in restoring peace up to an extent. The political resolution of this crisis is the best option instead of showing military might. However, it seems improbable after the airstrikes of U.S.
The author is currently the BS student of International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.