The ISIS and its caliphate have reduced considerably yet peace has eluded in Syria. In fact, the conflict has reached an unpredictable level of intensity with the recent United States – led strike. In early April, reports of another chemical attack in Douma raised inquisitiveness across the world. While the Western media was blaming the Syrian Government for the attack, Damascus on its part accuses the rebel groups of fabricating the videos to drum up international support. The reports provided by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor who identified the death of 80 people, including 40 who died from suffocation too has been dismissed by the Assad administration. Russia and Iran have supported Syria and have dismissed the use of chemical weapon by the Syrian government forces. However, American-based NBC news website reported that the US has blood and urine samples that indicate exposure to a chemical weapon. Before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) team examines the affected area, President Donald Trump relying on open source information gleaned from news reports, third party observers and social media posts issued a statement of bombarding Syria as a response to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapon.
On April 14, US along with France and UK launched multiple cruise missile strikes targeting Syrian military installations and chemical weapons research facility in Damascus. According to the Russian news reports, the Syrian Air Defense Forces had shot down 71 of 103 missiles launched by the US-led coalition. However, US rejected this report saying that they have successfully hit every target, expressing there strong deterrent against the production, spread and use chemical weapon. They also said that there haven’t been any reports of civilian casualties or injury reports of Russian troops.
As far the other two countries that participated in the operation- France and United Kingdom gained international recognition, with some countries praising the military action while others condemned it as provocative and unacceptable act. Amongst the strong critics were Russia, China, and Iran. Although these two European countries might have their distinct political interest to side with the US, President Emmanuel Macron started bragging about how he convinced Trump to “punish Syria for its suspected use of chemical weapons”. For which they were mocked by the Syrian regime who characterized them as “American slave”, returning the decoration of Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor granted to him by French President Jacques Chirac.
However, post-strike led these European countries to steer an international debate in a direction that forestalls another US strike and to establish a non-military mechanism for responding to the future alleged chemical weapon. In fact, they also pushed for a UN security resolution condemning Assad’s use of a chemical weapon but ended up in accusing Russia of every brutality happened in Syria. As a result, fresh sanctions on Russian firms alleged to be supplying chemical weapons to Assad is under process. The US ambassador Nikki Haley accused Assad over the use of chemical weapon “at least 50 times” over the course of the Syrian civil war, without explaining the source that provided her that high estimate. She also added that the US will remain in Syria “indefinitely”. At this point, it can be considered a not-so-veiled threat to Assad about using the chemical weapon again.
On the other side of the conflict, President Putin in a telephonic conversation with President Rouhani said that the strike has damaged the possibility of peaceful political settlement in Syria and further strikes could mean “chaos”. Although, it is too quick to say what shape this strike might take in coming days, one thing is clear that Putin is not happy with the West blaming Assad over chemical attack which is giving them the pretext to strike at a time when they are winning the war against ISIS-affiliated factions in Syria. In fact, Douma – last town held by Jaish al-Islam in Eastern Ghouta already fell under Assad-Russia control by end of March. The only thing left was the agreement between Assad-Russia and Jihadist factions on the evacuation of all combatants and their families to Idlib. Under this context, it is completely illogical, unnecessary and counterproductive for the regime to use chemical weapon as this will only solicit more Western retaliation, making the war a never-ending vicious circle.
Moreover, under Obama regime, Putin had put a lot of efforts and signed an agreement that supposedly removed all chemical weapons from Syria in 2014. Trump administrations claim of Assad still preserving chemical weapon stockpile, without providing any convincing evidence has undoubtedly angered Putin as this emphasizes his little control over Assad. Probably this is what Trump wants to show the world that – Russia as not an upright peacemaker, signaling open ended presence of American troops in Syria as essential.
Earlier, Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops and expressed optimism for the reconstruction project. This led to a clash between Trump and members of his national security team. In fact, the then CIA Director, Mike Pompeo and Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford reportedly warned Trump against the pulling out of the war-torn country would be a “mistake”. Though Trump was annoyed by the pushback, but he ultimately decided to embellish his work performance before the mid-term US election. One of the foremost goal of US is to overthrow Assad and confront Iran with one eye on Russia. If Assad achieves victory against rebels, Putin will emerge as a lead peacemaker along with Iran who has strategically strengthened its presence with the help of its key strategist Hezbollah in Syria. This would clearly disappoint Trump’s followers and close associates, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia in long-run.
Therefore, despite no evidences guarantees Syrian use of chemical weapon, while plenty of reports that indicate US and UK companies, perhaps Israel as well of supplying toxic agents to the terror groups – each incident is falsely blamed on Assad by Trump’s government. However, in the wake of growing US threat, Putin is likely to use all the tools at his disposal to support the regime unconditionally and achieve a desired end to the Syrian conflict. This will eventually change the nature of war, marking the beginning of another cold war where Russia will fight the archrival -US all over again. And this explains why the Syrian conflict might continue for few more years.