Friday, April 07, 2017



It was September 9th, 2013 when then private citizen and business mogul Donald Trump tweeted,” Don't attack Syria - an attack that will bring nothing but trouble for the U.S. Focus on making our country strong and great again”. Now, this seemingly innocuous tweet clearly becomes of a particular importance today in 2017 as its author is now President of the United States and has gone against what he previously advocated.

Following reports that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on its people, resulting in 80 dead, President Trump ordered cruise missiles attacks in retaliation on the Syrian military base of Al Shayrat where the chemical weapons attack is believed to have originated. This marked the first time that the US military deliberately targeted forces loyal to Assad. Previously, the US military had been conducting surgical airstrikes, targeting the Islamic State.

Russia, which has been propping the Assad regime since 2015, condemned the American response calling it “a violation of international law”. Although the U.S. military’s response does not constitute in itself an entry into the Syrian conflict, it does make for an interesting dynamic. President Trump has campaigned on the idea that strained relations with Russia ought to be repaired. However, this latest assault on the Syrian airbase represents a minor step back from his intended policy of rapprochement with Russia. Also, what the missile strikes on the Syrian airfield demonstrated is that President Trump is less constrained and more willing to act to punish Assad’s mishaps. This would likely lead to an increase in Russian support for the Syrian regime.

Nevertheless, a direct confrontation between Moscow and Washington appears unlikely and talks of WWIII should be dismissed completely. The complexity of the situation, exemplified by the numerous factions fighting each other in Syria serve to prevent just that. In the absence of a clear US policy in Syria, there appears to be no end in sight for the now six year old conflict.

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