Restraint needed to solve Syrian crisis
Missiles warning to Russia by Donald Trump risks sparking a knee-jerk conflict and a considered clear-headed strategy would be a wiser approach
Syria is no place for machismo and bluster. US President Donald Trump has promised a military response to an alleged chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians last weekend.
The United States, Britain and France are working together and missile strikes are anticipated in coming days. But confrontation can never be taken lightly and especially so given Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s alliance with Russia and Iran. Stepping back and taking time to formulate a clear-headed strategy would be a wiser approach.
Assad’s government has denied involvement in the attack on the rebel-held town of Douma, for weeks under siege from Syrian and Russian forces. Trump’s response on social media on Wednesday was aimed at Moscow, warning of retaliatory missiles: “Get ready, Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart’!”
Russian officials have called the claims a provocation designed to justify Western intervention against the Syrian president and said samples taken from the site had shown no chemical substances. Its military has said missiles will be shot down and bases from which they are launched targeted.
Trump is not known for his foreign affairs policymaking and has sent confusing signals about Syria. He responded to the use of chemicals at the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun last year with cruise missile strikes on the airfield from which Syrian jets involved in the attack were believed to have flown.
But there has been no US strategy. Trump failed to keep up the pressure and Syrian civilians have since been targeted at least seven more times with the banned weapons, without corresponding action.
Just last week, he ordered his generals to draw up urgent plans for the withdrawal of 2,000 US troops who have been helping anti-Assad rebels.
Syria’s civil war has become an excuse for foreign powers to carve out a strategic foothold in the region, gain influence and get a hold of oil and gas resources.
But given the countries involved and their ambitions, and the West’s recent history of foolish intervention in Iraq and Libya, it also poses military risks and dangers.
Restraint and negotiation, not knee-jerk conflict, are the only solutions, even when atrocities have taken place.