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Syrian conflict

How Trump’s Syria missile strike sent a strong signal to Americans, Russia, China and North Korea


PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 3:27pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 10:42pm

Even before a single independent observer began investigating the alleged chemical attacks launched by the Syrian regime, the air strikes conducted by the US, Britain and France offered a rare display of unity following the outbreak of the civil war in the Middle Eastern country in 2011.

Their unilateral action echoed Western military intervention in the Middle East for the past 30 years, and many around the world are questioning the legal, political and moral basis for such intervention – in a complicated conflict that has already claimed tens of thousands of lives. 

It is possible that the West is simply washing its hands of the Syrian matter once and for all. The West wishes to save face due to its inability to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and prevent Russian influence from growing in the region.

Many observers have already declared Assad the likely victor here, and that if the West wants to be seen to have done something, now would be the only appropriate time.

Even though evidence for the alleged chemical attacks was unreliable, social media alone and preconceived policy agendas would have urged the US and its allies to respond. 

US and allies vague on proof linking Syrian forces to chemical attack

Logically, Assad would have been unlikely to use chemical weapons because it gives the US an excuse to launch strikes, hampering his final effort to crush the opposition. One should question who benefits the most from launching chemical attacks in rebel-held areas. 

International relations are often conducted with the domestic situation in mind. With US President Donald Trump’s approval rating sliding again after the launch of former FBI director James Comey’s new book and the fortnightly dismissals of White House staff, flexing America’s muscles abroad shows resolve from the commander-in-chief, especially with just months to go for the US midterm elections.

Internationally, Trump’s attack on Assad – justified or not – is meant to display real courage and audacity to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Looking further East, striking Syria without UN consensus sends a strong signal to China and North Korea that American hard power works and can be mustered rapidly, and may make negotiators rethink their tactics for the high-level US-Korea summit to take place by June. 

Henry Yau, Tai Po