The United States airstrike on a Syrian air base was based on emotions, not factual evidence, and will have lasting consequences for the region, Valdai Club expert Alastair Crooke believes.
“The rushed decision was made on wrong information,” he told valdaiclub.com on Friday. “The consequences of this will be profound in the longer term. It will impact not only Syria, it will impact Russia, China, their relationships with United States and many things in the region – from Lebanon to Yemen. But the decision was taken on the basis of emotional reaction in America to the images of the television screen, many of which we do not know whether they are true images or fake images. Nonetheless, the missiles have now flown and the consequences will have to follow.”
The airstrikes were carried out days after local sources in Syria reported that several dozens of people died in a suspected gas attack in the country’s northwestern Idlib province.
In the airstrike’s aftermath, stakeholders will reconsider their strategic interests, Crooke believes. “Probably there is an expectation in America that this was a muscular sort of response that sent a message, and that after sending a message everyone go back to the business as usual. I very much doubt that people would go back to business as usual. I don't think that will be an immediate eruption against it but I think that everyone will recalculate the strategic interests in a different way.”
Three Goals of Trump's Airstrike in Syria
By launching cruise missiles against the Syrian Air Force base, the United States pursued three political goals: to demonstrate its superior power, to try to intimidate China and to end suspicions that Russia can influence President Trump, Valdai Club expert Vasily Kashin believes.
According to Crooke, the airstrike was also a message to Chinese President Xi Jinping who was meeting his US counterpart in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. “The Chinese president […] cannot have missed the fact that 24 hours earlier, America was pointing its policy in Syria in one direction, then it changed it completely in 24 hours and even before even an investigation takes place, the missiles are flying. I think that Chinese, when they consider their own position in the South China Sea, will be thinking very carefully about this episode themselves,” he said.
The US attack will seriously affect the way Trump is perceived in Russia, too, Crooke believes. When Trump came to power, hopes were high that there was a possibility of working together and that he was not part of the zero-sum school of foreign policy in the United States. “I think the message that we’ve had in this period is that all of that is gone and America reverts to the old America, that had the old group thinking that has dominated America for the last 20-30 years,” the expert said.
The most striking aspect of the US reaction to reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria were accusations that Russia could be involved in some way, the expert added. “They are suggesting that Russia was in a way responsible for what had happened, when, in fact, it was entirely the opposite. Russia was the state responsible for actually having these weapons destroyed in the first place never to be ever used by the Syrian government,” Crooke said.