The air strikes against Syria on Saturday led by the US, British and French forces prove the lack of a firm stance of the Western powers including the US on the Syrian civil war.
It was within a week after the reports of Syrian forces using chemical weapons on civilians in Douma in Eastern Ghouta, a hub of anti-Bashar protesters on April 7 that the bomber aircraft of the alliance carried out strong attacks over the chemical weapon facilities in the country. While America and its allies claimed that there were no causalities and that Bashar’s chemical weapon stockpile has been completely destroyed, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad came before the public by posting a video on social media in just a few hours of the attack as a sign of victory asserting that the air strikes had not caused even the slightest damage. The response of US president Donald Trump and the leaders of two other big powers on the very first day, was that the operation was a success and that they did not intend to carry out more attacks. Pentagon issued a statement clarifying that the aim of the attacks was not a change in Bashar’s regime. However, within a day they changed their stance such that they would withdraw from Syria only after accomplishing the mission.
Observers say that the attack carried out after a long verbal war with Russia which backs Syria, lasting almost a week, failed to come anywhere near their rhetoric. It should be comprehended that it was the realization that the air strikes failed to affect the allies of Bashar such as Russia, Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah and that the air strikes could not significantly destroy the chemical weapon stockpile which forced the Western forces to feverishly save their faces. It has been eight years since the crisis began in Syria. Syrian army destroyed all the cities in the country. About five lakh people were killed during the attacks. Still, after the war began, neither the US nor its allies have so far attempted to take any action against Bashar other than remaining mere spectators or issuing statements challenging him. It was in the hope of the support of America and France that the Gulf countries launched the attacks citing the presence of Islamic State and other terrorist organizations. Even then, the US followed by others was reluctant to enter the scene. The main reason of displeasure of the countries including Saudi Arabia towards former US president Barack Obama was this namby-pamby attitude of Washington. They were overly hopeful that they would get from Trump what they had not from Obama. Trump’s loquacious tweets and speeches against Russia, Iran and Hezbollah boosted their hope. However, one could understand that America and the Western allies have not still got the nerve for a face-off. A similar chemical weapon attack took place in Khan Shaykhun in Idlib governorate last year. America discovered it and prepared a chargesheet. A similar attack was carried out in April last year. Had Syria's stock of chemical weapons been crippled, Bashar would not have been able to mobilize such an attack again. But nothing happened, as proved by the arrogance of the Syrian autocrat who exhilarates with a victor's pride.
Unlike the previous occasion, this time Trump's broadside was not only against Syria, but Russia too which backs it. But Putin, as if fully aware of the limit Trump can go to, proves his perception by ignoring Trump's threats. The Russian assessment appears to be that the latest attack is not significantly more severe than the previous minor attack on Shayrat Airbase, and these are only gimmicks used to throw dust in the eyes of Trump's home population, when domestic issues boil. And on the other hand, Russia, as war experts there affirm, is not bold enough either to scale this up to a level of direct confrontation. Further, Russia is silent about frequent and intense Israeli attacks on Syria's military installations. At the same time, Putin, when he addressed the nation, did not fail to sound a threat of retaliation against the onslaughts on Syria. In short, both America and Russia are equally letting down Bashar who is in an all-out attempt to retain his rule, and his Arab opponents who are vowed to oust that dictator. Both powers are sitting on either side and indulging in a cat and mouse game.
Therefore, despite US threats that its prowl for Syria will not be ended, and an embargo will be imposed on Bashar and his backers including Russia, things do not look like getting anywhere. After the use of chemical weapons 34 times in 2013, at the initiative of Russia Syria had given an assurance that it will not be repeated, but Bashar is continuing with his game plan. And the powers on his side Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, and on the other US and allies are all in a game of deceit. For that very reason, the Syrian crisis is not approaching an end, but in fact getting more complicated.