This past weekend, the world felt heartache after images of another chemical weapons attack in Syria went viral. This attack hit the suburb of Douma, and the suspected blame falls on President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Workers reported finding at least 42 people dead in their own homes, and videos surfaced online of women, men and children with white foam coming from their mouths.
The Syrian civil war, which has been unfolding and failing for more than seven years now, appears to be a geopolitical mess between the West and Russia, Iran and Assad. In recent events, the option of military pressure is being discussed, after a long while of exemption and failing to draw a line.
Syria can no longer be background noise. The amount of slaughter and outrage needs some form of retaliation. Ironically, this retaliation is required in the days following President Trump saying that he wanted to pull the US out of Syria.
Days after Trump’s initial statements about pulling out of the war in Syria, Trump was actually pulled in deeper in the conflict. Trump wrote on Twitter on April 8th, that there will be a “big price to pay,” following the news in Douma. Trump then went on to blame Iran and Russia and singled out Vladimir Putin for their support of the Syrian Government.
Sadly, this chemical attack isn’t unfamiliar to the war in Syria, and falls on the lap of the Western world as it would its adversaries. Trump took limited action against Syria after the chemical weapons attack last year. Trump also ordered the State Department to suspend more than $200 million in funds for recovery efforts so the administration could release its role in the conflict.
The most definitive and derailing problem with the war in Syria is this kind of ignoring. The Washington Post wrote that Trump even declined to respond to seven previous chemical attacks this year, and still went on to announce that he intends to pull out US forces.
You would think a President would know better than to talk this tough without a strategy. There has been discussion of possible military responses from both the US and the UK, with neither ruling out a missile strike. This initial idea of pulling out of Syria would completely worsen the conflict for America’s allies in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Syria. However, it would benefit Russia who uses Syria as a strategic leverage in the Middle East.
Trump ordering some sort of military attack on Syria, while at the same time removing 2,000 troops out of Syria, is confusing. Trump frequently scapegoats to Obama, blaming his administration for doing nothing as far as enforcing against chemical weapons after an attack near Damascus in August 2013.
However, Obama’s administration did respond with military action after the attack, strategizing that Russia would get Syria to destroy the chemical weapons. The strategy deprived Assad of his arsenal, but sadly not all of it (despite Moscow’s promises). This was back when Trump himself warned Obama against any sort of military action in Syria.
However, once Trump was President, things changed as he sent cruise missiles to strike a Syrian airfield last year after the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.
The West and all its mixed messages have resulted in the current stage of the Syrian war. This lacking plan to keep pressure, fails to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, and the refusal to criticise Putin has allowed him and Iran to do whatever they desire in Syria.
Now Trump is forced to draw a line, tweeting, “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.” There is plenty of fear in what comes next. Whatever it may be, one thing is for sure: this war cannot be defined by Trump’s indecision. Wars usually require some sort of strategy and plan.