Has Syria crossed a fatal line in the sand with this latest atrocity? On April 4, 2017, Syrian forces under Bashar Assad launched a deadly sarin gas attack on civilians, in his own nation, killing more than 80 people at last report. Many were children and the horrifying images from Syria have sparked outrage worldwide.
President Donald Trump responded Thursday, April 6, with Tomahawk cruise missiles on the Syrian Al-Shayrat air base near the city of Homs. Sixty missiles were launched and 59 found their target. The attack is reported to have killed six, and destroyed at least 20 planes. This was “the first direct U.S. assault on the government of Bashar al-Assad in six years of civil war.” The targeting was precise. The missiles avoided the factory where the chemical weapons were stored. The assault was launched at about 4 a.m. to avoid the most traffic and people. The U.S. even informed the Russian military a few hours before the strike to avoid Russian casualties.
Trump announced the missile strike noting:
It is in the vital security interests of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons… There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.
United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley defended the strike in a meeting at the U.N.:
a very measured step… we are prepared to do more. But we hope that will not be necessary. Assad did this because he thought he could get away with it. He thought he could get away with it because he thought Russia had its back.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson mused that the chemical attack reflected the incompetence or unwillingness of Russia to keep Assad reigned in. The dictatorship was supposed to ensure the chemical weapons were removed from Syria, according to an agreement between Russia and the Obama administration. Tillerson will be meeting with Russian officials, in Moscow next week, where the talks will surely be centered around relations between the U.S. and Russia in the wake of the strike.
A number of nations spoke out praising the strikes in response to Syria’s heinous use of chemical WMD. Most notably in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Israel all voiced support for the U.S. response. Other allies, including the U.K., Australia, and Canada praised the missile strike.
Some of the responses, which shed a keen light on the situation, came from survivors of the Assad regime. The Daily Wire noted these reflect unified praise for Trump. Some of the accolades came from those who had survived previous chemical weapons attacks by Assad. In fact, some even want to name their sons after Trump and effused praise for “Abu Ivanka” (the father of Ivanka).
The Trump administration also discovered an unlikely ally in none other than Hillary Clinton. According to Red State:
Just hours before President Trump launched missile strikes against strategic Syrian targets… Hillary Clinton told an interviewer that she believed the United States should strike Syrian airfields in defense of civilians.
It appears the world consensus favors the U.S. Has Syria crossed a fatal line in the sand in light of this latest attack against its own people? Assad and his allies would answer no.
Russia, Iran, and the warring country have denounced Trump’s actions. Assad said in a statement: “What America did is nothing but foolish and irresponsible behavior, which only reveals its short-sightedness and political and military blindness to reality…” According to the New York Times: “Russian military announced that it was suspending an agreement to share information about air operations over the country, devised to avoid accidental conflict.” Iran responded with a statement denouncing the strike as “destructive and dangerous.”
The majority of Congress supported the airstrike. Some, such as Senator Rand Paul, have questioned the constitutionality of Trump acting without consulting Congress. Though Congress must approve a declaration of war, there is some precedent for the president acting in a limited military manner without Congressional permission necessary ahead of time.
President Obama was the latest to make a similar claim of presidential authority when he justified airstrikes against ISIS in 2014. According to Time:
President Obama relied only on his Commander in Chief powers when he ordered U.S. forces to join NATO allies in thousands of air strikes that killed thousands of people and effected regime change.
The question of Syria crossing the proverbial line in the sand has come up before in 2012. Obama said then the use of chemical weapons would be crossing a line by Assad. He stated there would be serious consequences should the warring president use chemical weapons. He used them anyway. Obama went to Congress seeking approval before he would launch an attack on Syria. The former president did not receive the approval.
Instead of going ahead with military action, the Obama administration sought assurances from Russia that Assad would remove all chemical weapons from his stockpile in Syria. It was thought this was accomplished. In 2014, Susan Rice, John Kerry, and Obama declared all the chemical weapons were removed. That was obviously wrong, as is evident today.
The road ahead is undoubtedly treacherous. Much speculation is rampant about what Syria, Russia, and Iran will do in the days and weeks to come. Perhaps more answers will come forth when the secretary of state visits Russia next week. Much will depend on Russia, as it is the main supporter of the Assad regime. Some will argue for a regime change. Others will see it as a risky move, destabilizing the region and serving to provide an open door for ISIS to walk through, as they did in Iraq after the exit of the U.S.
Many scenarios are possible. It is hoped that Assad will cease the use of banned chemical weapons and seek a negotiated peace to end the civil war. However, it does not seem likely this kind of response will be forthcoming anytime soon. It may be that Syria truly has crossed a fatal line in the sand from which there is no turning back.
By Daniel Osborn
Edited by Jeanette Smith
CBN NEWS: Joel Rosenberg: Syria is Trump vs. Putin
RedState: Hillary Clinton Said We Should Attack Syria Just Hours Before Trump’s Strike
SRN News: U.S. missiles hit Syrian airbase; Assad, Russia denounce action
The DAILY WIRE: Grateful Syrians React To Trump Strike: ‘I’ll Name My Son Donald’
TIME: Obama’s Breathtaking Expansion of a President’s Power To Make War
theguardian: Syria bombing: US says Russia bears responsibility for Assad’s gas attack – as it happened
The New York Times: Syria Strike Puts U.S. Relationship With Russia at Risk
WESTERN JOURNALISM: Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad Condemns US Strike On Syrian Air Base
Featured and Top Images Courtesy of VA Comm’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License