Foreign intervention can only prolong the misery of Syria
US-led missile strikes after alleged use of chemical weapons by Russian-backed loyalists in Douma will only destroy any remaining prospects of peace
The world has once again failed Syria’s people. Chemical weapons inspectors have finally been allowed by Syrian ally Russia to visit the site of an alleged attack in the town of Douma, 11 days after it was claimed to have taken place.
The United States, which led missile strikes joined by Britain and France on Saturday, contends nothing will be found as proof will surely have been tampered with; Syria and Russia counter that the quest is of no worth as the incident is a concoction of the West and never occurred.
The accusations and counterclaims ignore the 75 people killed on April 7, and Syrian medical workers finding bodies with mouths frothing with foam, cornea burns and discoloured skin.
US President Donald Trump ordered the action on Saturday after Russia blocked a Security Council resolution put forward by the US on April 10 seeking an investigation to identify who was responsible.
All it takes is one of the council’s five permanent members to use the power of veto and Moscow has now done so 12 times since the Syrian civil war began in 2011, although it has supported humanitarian measures and ceasefires.
China joined Russia in condemning the missile strikes, which violated council rules, and inspectors were in Damascus hoping to go to Douma at the time.
Even the details of the strikes are cloudy; the US claims none of the 105 missiles launched was intercepted, although Russia says 71 were shot down.
The US says three sites associated with chemical weapons that are banned under international rules were destroyed, setting back the country’s programme for years. But allegations that Syria possesses such weapons have long been rejected by Damascus and Moscow despite previous suspected attacks.
Those who dare to use chemical weapons have to be condemned.
Unauthorised air strikes that also carry the risk of confrontation do not send a strong enough message; the ones ordered by Trump last year in similar circumstances were not a deterrence.
But as important as the issue is, it detracts from the civil war, which has so far killed more than 500,000 Syrians and forced five million to flee the country, mostly to refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon.
Syria has become a battleground for foreign powers that are interested only in resources, influence and gaining a strategic foothold.
The tragedy of neighbouring Iraq is a lesson in why foreign power grabs are to be rejected.
Efforts by Russia and the US and their allies to bring an end to the civil war have been half-hearted and air strikes, while successful in stopping Islamic State extremists, have yet to make a noticeable impact in the Syrian conflict.
Intervention only makes finding a peaceful resolution through negotiations more difficult and some may say, impossible.