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Has Trump and the US Allies done the right thing by Attacking Syria?
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V Mahalingam | Date:05 May , 2018 0 Comments
V Mahalingam
is a security affairs analyst.

In response to a chemical attack, allegedly carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against rebel positions in Douma, US and its allies UK and France targeted three facilities associated with Syria’s chemical weapons program namely a scientific research center in the greater Damascus area, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and a chemical weapons equipment storage facility and command post, also near Homs. Over 100 cruise missiles were launched of which as per Russian Defence Ministry briefing 71 of them were shot down by Syrian systems. The attack avoided Russian and Iranian personnel and assets.

Was the attack justified and was it the right thing to do?

Trump ordered the attack just a day before ‘Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), an intergovernmental Chemical weapon watch dog was to begin its investigations in Douma to ascertain if Chemical Weapons were actually used in the city. Shouldn’t the US and its allies who profess ‘rule based international order and global institutions’ not have waited for the OPCW to conclude its investigations and followed other logical sequences such as to hear Syria, the alleged perpetrator’s side of the story, investigate and be reasonably sure of the manufacturer, source of supply of the gas and the attacker? Shouldn’t that have been followed by making an attempt to build consensus in the UN Security Council to obtain UN mandate before putting into effect the attack, which ought to have been the last option? Syria is an independent sovereign country and its legitimate Government was acting against the rebels who had occupied a part of the country within its own territory. There is no proof of Syria or its forces possessing or using chemical weapons yet. Use of Chemical Weapons is indeed deplorable but should three unconnected independent countries join hand and take law into their own hands? Have we acted in Iraq, Libya or Yemen where destruction and human tragedies have been knowingly created by outside countries using other means of destruction and killings?

While the French President does not need Parliament’s approval for launching a military operation, that is not the case with either the US or the UK. Are the US’ Congressmen and UK’s Parliamentarians dummies? Overall, the attack on Syria was an unauthorised one both by the UN as well as by the peoples’ court of the respective countries involved and unilaterally executed by the heads of the Governments of US, UK and France. World bodies and established institutions of the countries remained mute spectators. How does this differ from dictatorship?

What did the countries concerned hope to achieve by attacking Syria? Were these attacks a part of the long term plans to end future Chemical attacks? Even assuming Assad had indeed used chemical weapons, will the attack end future chemical weapon attacks? In response to a similar Sarin Gas attack in 2017 in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun which killed more than 80 people, including many children, the US military fired dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Shayrat Airfield controlled by Assad’s forces. Did it prevent subsequent chemical weapons attacks including the attack in Douma?

Willthe attack bring peace and solace to the people of Syria? On the other hand these attacks haveonly escalated the situation and worsened the sufferings of the people besides putting the US in confrontation with a number of countries and dragging it into the Syrian Civil War further. The value of such attacks is limited to impressing the domestic constituencies of the leaders of the countries involved in these attacks.

Can it be said conclusively that Syria was responsible for the attack?

US went to attack Iraq allegedly based on intelligence inputs that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and that Saddam Hussein had links with Al Qaeda. Both allegations proved wrong. US intervention resulted in substantial destruction of Iraq and incalculable sufferings to the people. Saddam Hussein was hanged. The ‘Regime Change’ was accomplished but what followed was not peace but unmanageable chaos. The false information inventors went unpunished. Libya is struck with chaos in a similar way.

A similar chemical attack was launched in Eastern Ghouta near the Syrian capital on August 21, 2013. Western and some Arab countries blamed Bashar al-Assad for the attack. Dale Gavlak, a Middle East correspondent for Mint Press News who has reported from Amman, Jordan, writing for the Associated Press, NPR and BBC, stated “From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families, a different picture emerged. They disclosed that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the gas attack”

On December 29, 2012 the London Daily Mail had published the hacked emails of a British ‘security contracting’ firm, Britam Defence, which revealed that Qatar had offered it an ‘enormous’ sum of money to obtain a chemical warhead from Russian stock, ‘similar to what Syria has’, to supply to the rebels.

In October, 2013 Turkish newspaper Aydinlik Daily reported that Luftu Turkkan, a Member of the Parliament for Turkey’s MHP, had raised the issue regarding the Sarin that was used by foreign-backed terrorists in Syria in the Turkey’s Parliament. Following Turkkan’s and the MHP’s allegations there was growing domestic and international pressure that was mounting against Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Davotoglu, for alleged involvement in the unconventional and undeclared war against Syria. The Tunisian press has claimed that the materials used in the production of chemical weapons were taken by armed groups in Libya to Syria via Turkey. The claims include that the Ansar al-Sharia a Libyan based terror group has produced both mustard gas and sarin in Libya and had brought it to Syria through Turkey.

Yemeni Major General Khalid al-Barayemi had stated that the revolutionary forces found chemical weapons in several Saudi trucks bound for areas under terrorists’ control. The substances seized could produce Sarin gas which is a deadly weapon. Al-Barayemi also said there is sufficient evidence that Turkish planes have recently delivered weapons into Yemen’s soil under the cover of humanitarian aid, implying that the chemical weapons substances might have been transited from Turkey.

It is a well known fact that Turkey had been a mute spectator to militant groups connected with Al Qaeda operating freely in the country. It is also a fact Turkey had opened up the ‘Terror Highway’ for militants from all over the world to go to Syria through its territory, the aim being to bring about a ‘Regime Change’ in Syria.

An operation run out of a covert CIA annex in Benghazi, with State Department’s knowledge, had also been involved in supplying arms to Syrian rebels through Turkey. Al-Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services, a Tripoli-based company was known by the Joint Staff to be handling the weapons shipments.

Now turning to another Chemical Weapon attack in the UK, on March 4, former Russian military intelligence Colonel Sergei Skripal, 66, who had been convicted in Russia of spying for Great Britain and was later swapped for Russian intelligence officers, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were found unconscious on a bench near the Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, UK. Police said they had been exposed to a nerve agent. London immediately accused Russia of being involved, but failed to produce any evidence. London expelled 23 Russian Diplomats and more than 20 western allies have ordered the expulsion of dozens of Russian diplomats in a show of solidarity with UK.

Speaking at the Annual Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, on April 14, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov responding to the incident at the Annual Assembly of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, on April 14, 2018, said that an independent analysis of the chemical used in the Salisbury incident has uncovered traces of the chemical weapons that were in operational service in the United States, the United Kingdom and some other NATO members. Speaking at an emergency session of the OPCW Executive Council on the Salisbury incident, Russia’s Permanent Representative at the OPCW Alexander Shulgin said “nerve agents like Novichok were not only produced but were even patented as a chemical weapon in the United States. And this is not an old story, this happened just several years ago: the patent is dated December 01, 2015”.

Could one discount the possibility of the US or its allies supplying Chemical Weapons to the rebels in order to create a rationale for an on attack and subsequent ‘Regime Change’ in Syria? Or is it possible to discount the possibility of the western powers using Chemical agents to target vulnerable individuals so as to create a situation to blame Russia? What is the larger aim?


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

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