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Rising uncertainty in Syria after US-led "precision strike"

CIIS Time:04 17, 2018 Writer:Li Zixin Editor:Wang Jiapei


Friday night, President Trump announced the U.S. had launched "precision strike" against targets of "facilities related to the Syrian government's capabilities of chemical weapons" in Syria, aiming to "strongly deter the production, diffusion, and use of chemical weapons." The military action was jointly launched by the United States, the United Kingdoms and France.

 

An “aggression act” without UN’s authorization?

At a press conference after announcing the military action, the US said the military action not only aims to destroy chemical weapons, but also accelerate ending the years-long civil war in Syria. Obviously, the current Russia-led situation is far beyond U.S. expectations. So, once again, the U.S., under the excuse of "protecting civilians from the violence of war", hinders Syria’s political process by its military strength. Without the authorization of the UN Security Council, the US unilateral air strike against Syria has violated international law and principles.

 

Just hours before the attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron exchanged views on the Syria issue by phone. Obviously, Putin's persuasion failed to work. On the one hand, it means the consensus has been reached among the three Western Powers for a long time. It is a decision made hastily. On the other hand, Macron still agreed to speak with Putin at the last moment before the military actions, which showed that France is not willing to cut off necessary dialogues with Russia. It was conceivable that Macron had told Putin that the military action was already in full swing. The talks between the two leaders still have positive significance in avoiding the accidental conflicts among main powers in Syria.

 

Who should be responsible for alleged “chemical attack”?

Although military intervention had been launched, the truth of "chemical attack" is still unclear. Did "chemical attack" really exist? If so, who actually launched the attack? At the Security Council meeting earlier on the same day, the US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ms. Hayley, said that the relevant evidence was still being confirmed. However, the “military intervention” was still launched later.

 

For the Syrian government forces, considering the overwhelming advantages on the ground battlefield, is it necessary to launch a chemical attack? Besides, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had already destroyed the chemical and biological weapons in Syria in 2013 under the strict supervision from the U.S., European Union and Russia. The reappearance of chemical weapons matters the credibility of the Syria government and the authority of international organizations within the UN framework. The Syrian government and the opposition blame each other for chemical attacks, but the criticisms do not make any sense to clarify the truth. Now that military operation has begun, the truth will probably be buried by the shells.

 

Upgraded version of "precision strike"

The Pentagon said that although the military action would continue to be "precise strikes," it is different from the strike one year before because it was made by the United States alone targeting at a single goal. This time, the military action was jointly launched by the U.S. and its western allies, targeting at a series of strategic facilities controlled by the Syrian government. The targets, combat personnel, weapons and equipment, all have been greatly upgraded as a "precision strike".

 

U.S. military operations in Syria are considered as a serious "military provocation and threat" by Moscow. It is no doubt that the US and its allies will be very cautious in hitting any targets to avoid the direct confrontation with Russia. Any mischief can lead to miscalculation in all aspects. For Russia, it will pay close attention to the whole situation and set red lines for the West in case it is out of control.

 

Fortunately, both the United States and Russia still endorse the Geneva process within the UN framework because the Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Pentagon have expressed their willingness to promote a political solution in Syria. Their attitudes leave a window open for the Syria issue to return to the political settlement as the end of military strikes.

 

 

LI Zixin, Assistant Research Fellow of China Institute of International Studies.

 

 

 

Source: Asia Pacific Daily, April 16, 2018.

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