Donald Trump tweets since the alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Douma has pointed towards a massive retaliation. For days the world watched what these strikes would mean on the ground.
Donald Trump was excessive and arrogant in his favourite platform of communication. While pushing the these that Assad must be responsible and even hinting that Russia had a hand in the chemical attack, he didn’t expect a forceful answer by Russia. He was perhaps hoping that Putin would give a green-light for a retaliation, which was the case when the US bombed the abandoned Shayrat airfield a year ago.
This time around, reacting to Trump’s aggressive tweets, the Russian president himself gave out a statement that Russia would shoot down any missiles striking Syria. The White House didn’t expect that reaction. In 2017, when the US bombed Shayrat airfield three days after the chemical attack in Khan Sheikun Russia said nothing. Now, the US deliberated with their allies (the UK and France) for a week on the strategy because of Putin’s “no-no”.
The end result? Bombing three so-called chemical factories and storages inside the country. What are these factories? Why would Assad need chemical weapons when Syrian forces have been on the attack and winning for a year? This week, even Eastern-Ghouta in Damascus has fallen to the regime.
These small-time strikes on facilities in Syria won’t affect the current dynamics inside the country, where Damascus is winning even without chemical weapons! Nevertheless, it wasn’t only Trump which promised retaliation. Leaders in Europe pushed for strikes as well. Emmanuel Macron and Theresa May entered the game and wanted a piece of the cake.
What will be Putin’s response? He promised that Russian forces will shoot down any missiles targeting Syria. At least some of the missiles reached their objective. If the Russian President doesn’t react he also will be ridiculed. Unlike Trump, when Putin puts out a declaration he tends to respect it.
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If the Russian forces don’t react forcefully, as Putin stated they will, he’ll be ridiculed as well. These strikes don’t change the course of the war, but it’s a test for Russia. They’ll have to react. How and when? We’ll find out.
How politically convenient to note only obliquely that France and England participated in this activity. Assad’s commissions of crimes against humanity, notably his own citizens, are unacceptable to most of the civilized world. Apparently, France, England, and the US agreed that action was required. Russia’s intervention means, de facto, that they support the use of chemical weapons against civilians. For the moment, even Russia cannot afford to take that stance. Should they do so, they will cross a threshold from which they will have difficulty returning.
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