Assad a serpent choking helpless
EVEN with the agonising possibility of a new war in the Middle East, US President Donald Trump’s strikes against Syria, in concert with the UK and France, must be seen as a righteous and necessary response to unbridled cruelty.
Western-educated and presenting himself as a refined and cultured aesthete, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad is a poorly disguised tyrant who has been bombing and gassing his people since the Arab Spring of 2011.
To watch Assad’s persistent “Who, me?” denials is to observe a liar who imagines himself charming and guileless.
He is, as Trump says, a “monster”, the serpentine kind who has coiled himself around his war-torn cities and further spat poison into them in the form of chemical weapons.
There is nothing in this for the US, UK and France. There is no secret agenda to control oil and gas fields. It is about ending Assad’s pitiless campaign of terror by trying to knock out the Syrian regime’s chemical factories and stores.
As such, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said they had “struck harder” than the strike of 58 Tomahawk missiles a year ago, also over chemical attacks, which took out Russian-made warplanes.
For those seeking hard evidence Assad unleashed chemicals on Douma city, northeast of Damascus, on April 7, in a sense it doesn’t matter.
Assad has a long history of using chemicals – typically, chlorine gas, deployed in canisters – in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Together with Russia, Assad has been attacking Douma for months with thousands of air strikes. They are close to reclaiming the city and, as elsewhere, have used gas to try to effect a coup de grace.
For Russia, access to the Mediterranean is the key reason for their devil’s pact; for Iran, it’s about broadening the reach of the Shiite faith and giving open access for its ideology and terror into Lebanon.
The most obvious point of retaliation for Russia would be US warships in the Mediterranean and allied bases in places such as Cyprus. Yet such a reaction is almost unthinkable.
It would be followed by the US directly hitting Russian assets and troops in Syria; Iran lashing out at Israel; and Turkey and the Sunni Gulf nations piling bombs on Syria and Iran. That, by any measure, would be called World War III.
It is Vladimir Putin’s move.