The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
Trump Says Assad Will 'pay a Price' – But It Won't Make a Difference
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New ReplyRead More
ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

The crises in the Middle East are beginning to join up and cross-infect each other. Israeli aircraft fired missiles at Syria’s T4 military airbase east of Homs early on Monday, just as other Israeli jets were making attacks on Gaza. President Donald Trump must decide whether or not he will order air strikes targeting Syrian government forces as a punishment for the alleged dropping of bombs filled with chlorine gas on a rebel-held part of the city of Douma in Eastern Ghouta that killed at least 40 civilians on Saturday night.

Trump will have difficulty not doing something impressive after denouncing “Animal Assad” and promising that the Syrian leader would “pay a price” for the gas attack. Trump has also denounced President Barak Obama for his timidity in his use of US military strength against President Bashar al-Assad, so the US may do something spectacular.

What is more doubtful is whether or not US air strikes will have much impact in the long term. In many respects, the political situation on the ground in Syria has gelled as Assad asserts his control over most of populated Syria. The last rebels are being evacuated from Eastern Ghouta on the outskirts of Damascus. Syrian troops and tanks are reported to be massing to overrun an Isis held stronghold in the south of the capital.

Syria is being divided into three zones of unequal size: Assad backed by Russia and Iran in much of the country; Sunni Arab factions backed by Turkey in Idlib, newly captured Afrin and territory north of Aleppo; and in the north and east, a large triangle of land east of the Euphrates held by the Kurds supported by 2,000 US troops able to call in massive air power. Even heavy US air strikes on a one-off basis will not significantly change this balance of power.

It remains mysterious why Assad should provoke the US and Europeans just at his moment of victory in Damascus and when the rebels are on the point of surrender or have already done so. Remarkably, the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, says that Russian experts were able to enter the hospital in Douma where the chemical attack occurred – something which suggests the city has fallen – and interview eyewitnesses. He said: “Our military specialists have visited this place … and they did not find any trace of chlorine or any other chemical substance used against civilians.” But the US state Department has said that Syrian forces are denying entry to international inspectors.

Just because a poison gas attack at this stage would be an extremely stupid thing for the Syrian government to do, however, does not mean that they did not do it. As with many other atrocities in the Syrian war, there is always a residue of doubt about what really happened because of the lack of independent non-partisan reporting and investigation.

ORDER IT NOW

Trump is finding that there are limits to US power in Syria, which primarily depends on launching air strikes while the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) act as a mopping up force on the ground. But after the fall of their enclave at Afrin, the Kurds are mobilising to hold back the Turkish army and its Arab auxiliaries, many of them jihadis. In the long term, the Kurds are looking for a deal with Assad and have no intention of fighting him. In general, Trump’s instinct to get out of Syria is a sound one, and the interventionist ambitions of the Washington foreign policy establishment depend heavily on wishful thinking.

What makes the present situation potentially even more dangerous than it looks is the presence of various wild cards. Trump is clearly at odds with the Pentagon over a US military withdrawal from Syria, once Isis is finally eliminated. Nobody knows the final shape of US policy or whether it will finally take a concrete shape or remain fluid.

Washington could become more aggressive as the new national security adviser John Bolton and secretary of state Mike Pompeo take office. But the swift demise of their predecessors may argue that these super-hawks will have less leeway to exert their influence than they had hope and others feared.

As for Israel, the latest crisis in Syria comes as a useful diversion from the escalating crisis in Gaza, but the latter is not going to go away. The two Israeli F-15s fired their missiles at T4 airbase from inside Lebanese airspace, showing a degree of caution. As Assad becomes stronger and gains control of more and more of Syria, Israel will want to flex its military muscles but this does not necessarily mean that Israel wants to fight a war with Syria or Hezbollah, despite the belligerent rhetoric on all sides.

As we get closer to 12 May – when Trump has to decide if he will effectively pull out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal – different crises contribute to raising the political temperature in the region. In a situation as complex as this, no country may want a wider war, but they could easily stumble into one.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Syria 
Hide 8 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Randal says:

    It remains mysterious why Assad should provoke the US and Europeans just at his moment of victory in Damascus and when the rebels are on the point of surrender or have already done so.

    LOL! “Mysterious”, forsooth! Come on Cockburn, surely a scion of a famously “courageous” journalistic family can show a bit more nous and courage than that?

    Just because a poison gas attack at this stage would be an extremely stupid thing for the Syrian government to do, however, does not mean that they did not do it.

    Evidently not, after all.

  2. “Just because a poison gas attack at this stage would be an extremely stupid thing for the Syrian government to do, however, does not mean that they did not do it”

    Well, Cockburn, we know who has done it in the past and it wasn’t Assad:

    https://ronaldthomaswest.com/2018/04/08/open-letter-to-die-linke/

    Moron.

    • Replies: @yurivku
  3. peterAUS says:

    ……punishment for the alleged…….

    Cockburn is well known public figure.

    How come, then, that he has no problem with that in quotes?
    If he were, say, a paid government troll (yes, yes, I know…) in some totalitarian society (another “yes I know”…) I’d understand it.
    But, he is, well, what he is.

    Punishment……….for….the……alleged …….crime.
    No investigation, no court, no judge….no jury…just punishment. Not even pretense.

    Mind boggling.

    Now, if Trump pulls something and Putin folds, again, then ….ah, well, cancel that. It would be some deep multidimensional chess move people like me just can’t comprehend.
    All good.

  4. Realist says:

    Trump is just a complete loser.

  5. “A big price to pay”? Like all of us had to pay when all gods had been struck by Big Bang deaf, blind, dumb, mute and most politicians and clergy in US struck by the Bank Bank greedy, selfish, deceitful, warlike, etc?

    Yes, we have been paying “huge costs” ever since the Big Bang and the Big Bank occurred and no doubt we will be paying the costs of these two the greatest tragedies that has thus far befallen biota on this planet.
    Will this “Big Price” be paid once again by those–the innocents–who know nothing about the alleged CW attack on Douma?
    And w.o. knowing which warring side has done it and who ordered it? You’d dare think that only the guilty should be punished, right? No, you’d be wrong!!!!!

  6. Just because a poison gas attack at this stage would be an extremely stupid thing for Cockburn to do, however, does not mean that he did not do it. As with many other atrocities in the Syrian war, there is always a residue of doubt about what really happened because of the lack of independent non-partisan reporting and investigation.

    • LOL: yurivku
    • Replies: @peterAUS
  7. peterAUS says:
    @WorkingClass

    Agree.

    The problem with “pro-Assad” forces is, they aren’t how people from developed world see a military of an organized state.

    There are plenty of “fringe” groups who really don’t have loyalty to the central authority.
    It’s not unlikely that one of those groups did it for any reason imaginable. Simple hate would’ve been enough and there is plenty of that there.

    Still, without proof this, US/allies action, is simply unacceptable.

    The arrogance is stunning there.

    Will that collapse within a mushroom remains to be seen.
    What a world.

  8. yurivku says:
    @Ronald Thomas West

    Moron.

    He is. But currently I think US/UK are 99% made of those.

Current Commenter
says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr