Last Friday, the United States launched a cruise missile attack on a Syrian airfield called Al-Shayrat close to the western Syrian city of Homs. The attack was apparently in response to the use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun (in Syria’s Idlib province). Fifteen ‘Tomahawk’ cruise missiles were launched from warships ‘USS Ross and USS Porter’ in the eastern Mediterranean, in the early hours of Friday morning. US President Donald Trump claimed that the strike was a direct response to the chemical weapons attack by the Syrian regime which killed more than 70 people. With this, for the first time since the Syrian war has started, the US has become a direct combatant against the Syrian regime. There was an angry response from Russia, which described the missile attack ‘as an act of aggression against a sovereign nation’ and warned that the strikes were a significant blow to the Russian-American relations which were already in a sorry state. A meeting of the UN Security Council was called on Friday evening to discuss the strikes. At the meeting, while France and the United Kingdom described the US response as appropriate, Russia said that the attack was a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression.
The chemical weapon attack conundrum
How does the use of chemical weapons which would turn the international community against Syria help Assad? Why would President Assad use chemical weapons at a time when his forces had already captured Aleppo and were preparing to launch an attack on the Idlib, and especially when the US and Russia were trying to cooperate to fight the Islamic State? Most importantly, why would he attack with chemical weapons when the US has itself admitted that they do not want regime change in Syria?
Clearly, it does not make any sense for President Assad to use chemical weapons when his forces are making a steady progress. Any such dastardly attack would have invited an external response, as it has been the case now. Moreover, he does not benefit from such an attack and only the terrorist and jihadi groups which will be benefitted.
A similar even occurred four years ago in August 2013, when chemical weapons were used in the suburb of Damascus and initially the Syrian Government was blamed for it. But later, after the investigations were over, it was found that the Syrian Government was not behind the chemical weapons attack and it was the jihadi groups which were responsible.
Finally, so far, there has been no investigation into this incident to determine ‘who’ carried out the attack. Therefore, without an investigation, a mere assumption of Assad regime’s involvement in the chemical weapons attack may not be an appropriate response to bomb a ‘sovereign nation’.
We will continue the post in the Three Part Series….
Read Part 2 in Syrian Chemical Attacks series : Click Here