Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - BERİL DEDEOĞLU

WHILE U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­clared the airstrikes on the As­sad regime a re­sound­ing suc­cess, it is hard to ex­pect much of a long-term im­pact.

That is what U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump said about last week­end’s strikes against Syria. He be­lieves the “mis­sion” was a suc­cess, with­out spec­i­fy­ing what the mis­sion in ques­tion was ex­actly. If we only take into con­sid­er­a­tion the mil­i­tary as­pect of the oper­a­tion, we can in­deed say that it was a suc­cess, as all tar­gets had been hit ap­par­ently. This is not sur­pris­ing per se, as we are talk­ing about a coali­tion of the three most pow­er­ful armies in the world, the U.S., the U.K. and France. Given their com­bined power, it would have been sur­pris­ing if they could not de­stroy these lim­ited num­ber of tar­gets.

Nev­er­the­less, in or­der to avoid an es­ca­la­tion with Rus­sia, these were prob­a­bly in­formed in ad­vance, so they could with­draw their sol­diers and ma­te­ri­als be­fore­hand. The point is, we do not know if, on their side, Rus­sia warned As­sad. In other words, we do not know if As­sad found the op­por­tu­nity to trans­fer his chem­i­cal weapons to a safe place, or not.

As the U.S. pres­i­dent speaks of a great suc­cess, we can only imag­ine that all of Syria’s chem­i­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties have in­deed been de­stroyed. We will only know about it if the in­spec­tors of the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons (OPCW) could gain free and un­lim­ited ac­cess to Syr­ian army’s fa­cil­i­ties. Their find­ings will be of cru­cial im­por­tance, as As­sad’s chem­i­cal arse­nal may be used, in the fu­ture, to drag him be­fore the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court.

The coali­tion jus­ti­fied their in­ter­ven­tion by say­ing that As­sad was killing his fel­low Syr­i­ans with chem­i­cal weapons. The thing is, af­ter the West­ern mil­i­tary strikes, As­sad is still in power, and the Syr­i­ans did not get any hu­man­i­tar­ian aid. So maybe the “mis­sion” Trump is evok­ing was some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

It seems that the mis­sion, as Trump is de­scrib­ing it, was not about over­throw­ing As­sad or con­vey­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance to the Syr­ian peo­ple. Trump only had some lim­ited strate­gic cal­cu­la­tions while go­ing ahead with the oper­a­tion, and he cer­tainly thought a lot about Rus­sia while do­ing it.

One of the im­me­di­ate re­sults of the at­tack was to glue the West­ern al­lies to­gether. NATO ap­peared once more as an ef­fi­cient tool, France lost the chance to build a bal­anced re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia, and the U.S. and Rus­sia suc­ceeded to demon­strate that they, and no­body else, are the two mas­ters of the Syr­ian cri­sis. More­over, in this con­text, it will not be pos­si­ble for Iran to dis­tance it­self from Rus­sia; and the Tur­key-Rus­sia-Iran trio is now rel­a­tively less sig­nif­i­cant for the res­o­lu­tion of the cri­sis.

In the next phase, France and the U.K. will in­sist to get a seat at the U.S.-Rus­sia ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble. Nonethe­less, in the ab­sence of Iran and Tur­key, these ne­go­ti­a­tions can­not pro­vide a sus­tain­able so­lu­tion. How­ever, if all these sit around the same ta­ble, these ne­go­ti­a­tions will not re­ally work, ei­ther. Maybe the U.S. only planned to join the Tur­key-Rus­sia-Iran trio, but the other West­ern part­ners did not al­low them to do so. The U.K. prob­a­bly thought that send­ing Trump alone to ne­go­ti­ate with Rus­sia would be too risky. Maybe that is why Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May rushed into this oper­a­tion, with­out even con­sult­ing the Bri­tish par­lia­ment as she was sup­posed to do.

Af­ter all, the only good out­come of this oper­a­tion was to make sure that the Syr­ian regime will not be able to use chem­i­cal agents again. Besides, the oper­a­tion pre­vented Iran from en­larg­ing its in­flu­ence zone in Syria. Nev­er­the­less, it is hard to see, in the short run, what the oper­a­tion’s re­sult will be with re­gard to the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG) or the Free Syr­ian Army (FSA). It is hard to see, too, if this oper­a­tion will make sure that no more Syr­i­ans will die in this war, if dis­placed peo­ple will be able to re­turn home, or if the nor­mal­iza­tion of the re­gion is nearer. In other words, per­haps the strate­gic “mis­sion” is ac­com­plished, but the hu­man­i­tar­ian one is nowhere to be seen.

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