What's After the American Strikes on Syria?


Without an objective international investigation of what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, and in a recalling of the Iraqi tragedy, Washington authorized strikes on Syria. It was like throwing a stone into water, creating wide-ranging of consequences that can be summarized in three pillars.

Among most important are those related to the American policy toward Syria. Trump's administration lost credibility as it seemed confused. On March 31, the White House announced that the United States must accept the political reality and that the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is determined by Syrian people, which means that stepping down of Al-Assad is no longer US priority. A week later Washington bombed Syria and confirmed its inability to deal with Al-Assad.

American strikes came despite Washington failure to prove the Syrian responsibility on the incident. Damascus, under a Russian-American agreement after the Sarin gas incident in the Eastern Gauta in 2013, joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to destroy its stockpiles under the auspices of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in January 2016.

It seems that there was a deal between Trump and Pentagon supported by other institutions to relieve pressure and charges against him for "his relationship with Moscow" in exchange for allowing the strikes. One of the strikes’ goals is to enhance Trump popularity and present him as the powerful leader of the Americans. They also calm the Arab Gulf countries worries and confirm US commitments toward them.

It is obvious that the United States is moving ahead toward dividing Syria and it is still not serious enough in fighting terrorism. It is working now to separate north and south of Syria through three forces affiliated to it. Both Syria's democratic forces and the Turkish one controlling the north, and the Jordanian-backed factions are trying to dominate the south. The strikes, as previous American strikes, weakened the Syrian army in the front of terrorist groups that have been ravaging the Syrian state for years. Washington tends to maintain the terrorist groups in Syria and not to eliminate them completely. 

The second concerns the settlement of Syrian crisis, which may be slowing slightly. The relative decline of US presence in region affairs directly after Trump assumed the power has allowed important understandings with Turkey and the flexibility of the latter that facilitate Astana consensus, and Geneva negotiations. However, the American strikes and the understandings that lately appeared between Turkey and Washington may affect the Turkish flexibility toward Russia and the settlement process in Syria. It may calm the tripartite understanding among Russia, Turkey and Iran as Ankara has steadily restored its previous policy in Syria in coordination with US and its Arab Gulf allies. 

Third, the revival of international and regional polarization, in the light of US serious steps to restore its traditional alliance with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, forming what is called "Sunni Alliance" plus Israel in one campaign. Meanwhile, the G-7 foreign ministers meeting and the cancellation of the British Foreign Secretary's visit to Moscow referring that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will explain the Western position on Syria to Moscow, indicate the recovering of Washington's traditional alliance with Europe.

On the other hand, Russia and Iran find themselves in need for more coordination concerning such unexpected US movements which threat their interests and regional stability and security as well.

There was a hope that the tension in US-Russian relations would ease and the understanding between the two sides on Syrian and Ukrainian crises and other controversial issues would develop in light of the flexibility and positive signals Trump launched during his campaign and after. However it is clear that strong American institutions have been able to tame Trump to the decided track for American policy. The US strikes have achieved short-term gains for Washington, but unfortunately they have created regional and international difficulties that are very costly for all.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

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