by Tony Wyman
Assad will remain in control of Syria – Missile strikes or not
President Trump rightly called Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad a monster. That is precisely what the tyrant is, an evil man with no conscience who deserves to meet a bloody end at the hands of his own people.
While last night’s strikes degraded his ability, we’ve been told, to use chemical weapons such as Chlorine gas, to murder more helpless children in his country, it did nothing at all to remove Mr. Assad from power.
What is our Goal in Syria?
That should be the goal of the foreign policy of the United States and her allies. Simply lobbing weapons at Syrian government and military facilities is not good enough. Neither is any settlement that allows Mr. Assad, who is responsible for the deaths of 500,000 people and the displacement of more than a million refugees into neighboring European countries, to escape answering for his crimes.
Last night’s guided missile attacks, directed at a chemical weapons research and development facility; a government command and control center thought to have directed chemical attacks against helpless civilians; and storage facilities believed to contain chemical weapons components, did nothing to tip the balance against Mr. Assad in the bloody civil war that have destroyed much of Syria.
Before Russia and Iran, two of the United States’ most bitter enemies, intervened on behalf of Mr. Assad’s failing regime, rebels – who took up arms against their brutal government in March 2011, made impressive progress towards freeing their country from tyranny.
Complicating matters in Syria, however, were a dizzying array of Islamist militant groups. many organized and funded by Saudi Arabia and her allies – the largest and most notable of which, were branches of Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Front or Jabhat Nusra and within the last 4 years – the Islamic State or ISIS / ISIL.
The Obama Administration, on several occasions coordinated assistance through the CIA, to elements of the Free Syrian Army, even though Obama, General Petraeus and particularly, then Secretary of State, John Kerry, were warned by various branches of intelligence, including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), within the Pentagon, that the assets and weapons would ultimately fall into the hands of the Islamic State – which they did. Kerry, was notably vocal in his unwillingness to accept credible reports that assisting so called ‘moderate rebels’ was an extreme risk.
Keeping track of the complex assortment of rebels and militants as well as their allegiances and roles as proxy fighters was nearly an impossible task, not to mention that they were constantly mutating. The notion of “moderate rebels” turned out to be for the most part, fiction.
The West Hasn’t Done Enough
When Russia intervened in September 2015 at the request of the Assad government, using a massive wave of indiscriminate air attacks against both armed and civilian targets, leaving decimation and mass casualties in their wake, the fate of the rebellion, already fragile, changed. Gone was the hope for either an out-right rebel victory or a negotiated settlement leading to peace.
Bashar Assad’s military mission changed from one where his forces were tasked with preserving the regime and defending the territory it held to where it is now: the complete and utter devastation and elimination of the resistance.
During the course of the war, the United States and other western powers have sought ways to end the war.
As mentioned previously, the first approach was an attempt at arming resistance fighters – prompting the New York Times to call the conflict a “full-fledged” proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, and then by negotiations.
While the west was highly successful in destroying ISIS, the terrorist group that filled the vacuum left by fleeing Syrian forces abandoning territory in the country the rebels were unable to hold for themselves – America and her allies have failed to force Russian and Iranian forces from the region.
The American priority, begun under President Obama, was always to wipe out ISIS. And while Mr. Obama said he couldn’t envision a solution to the Syrian civil war that left Mr. Assad in power, American policy in the region never seriously applied pressure to remove the dictator from office.
Assad Must Go
The time to apply that pressure is now. Mr. Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies lied to the world about eliminating all chemical weapons stockpiles in their country. That breach of truth should not go unpunished. And as these powers have shown their word means nothing, the civilized world can no longer believe what they say.
Future commitments made by Syria, Russia and Iran can not be accepted as valid unless military, economic and diplomatic power is applied by western nations to force these rogue states to live up to their commitments.
Unless we step up our military support of Syrian resistance fighters, unless we commit to using military force where needed to counter Russian and Iranian intervention, Mr. Assad will win the civil war and butcher more of his own people. He’s already killed more than half-a-million while we have watched.
With the cover of his Russian allies, nothing will stop him from murdering countless more when the war ends. We cannot stand by and allow that to happen.
The fact is that Mr. Assad was winning the war against the resistance without using chemical weapons.
Blowing up his capability to use them in future attacks on civilians will do nothing to stop him from finishing off the resistance, under the cover of Russian and Iranian support, in the months ahead.
Once the civil war ends, Russia will have a foothold in the region from which they can stage operations to further destabilize the Middle East.
Iran, for its part, will have an ally next door to Israel where they can launch terrorist attacks into the West Bank.
Syria will become a training ground for anti-western terrorist groups, much in the manner it was within the various rebel groups, that our enemies can use against us and our allies. And millions of Syrian refugees will have no home to which to return.
No Stomach for Regime Change
If the attack last night showed Mr. Assad and his allies anything, it showed that the west, led by President Trump, Prime Minister May and President Macron have no stomach for regime change in Syria.
It showed that the three major powers with the most invested in the conflict, with the most at stake should Mr. Assad consolidate power under his brutal regime, as well as with the most to lose should Russia and Iran win the proxy war against the West they are waging in Syria – don’t have the courage, vision or determination to bring this war to a satisfactory conclusion.
Now that we’ve lobbed some missiles at a Syrian chemical weapons sites, now that President Trump has foolishly declared “Mission Accomplished,” echoing the discredited claim made by President George W. Bush declaring victory in Iraq in 2003 – the west will likely return to its former posture of standing by and watching as long as Mr. Assad and mercenaries from Russia and Iran murder countless Syrians with only conventional weapons instead of banned chemical ones.