Elijah J. Magnier – @EjmAlrai
When President Donald Trump was elected, the world expected him to dedicate his attention to the US economy and avoid unnecessary involvement in wars. In point of fact, since day one (even before he was President) he has been “in bed” with the Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the American mainstream media who harshly attacked him for it.
After the Tomahawk launch against the Syrian military airport of Sha’ayrat in south-east Homs, those promoting regime change and war involvement against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have been asking Trump: What’s next?
Trump came out of his comfort zone to justify why he did not hit the Syrian airport runways saying “they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill and top)”. The reason for such a justification is due to the rapid recovery of the airport where Damascus ordered – only hours after the tomahawk bombing – several attacks against the al-Qaeda stronghold in Idlib, flying from Sha’ayrat the same afternoon and the following day as well, to prove the ineffectiveness of Trump’s Tomahawks.
Talking to decision makers in Syria, it was confirmed that the Tomahawks hit the central command and control, ammunition warehouses, anti-air system, several jets and gasoil depot, without altering the military capability of the Syrian Air Force, for now. Nevertheless, the sources believe this is only one step, possibly many others to follow by the United States, aiming to divide Syria by waving the banner “humanitarian responses”.
Moscow, Damascus and Tehran issued a common statement “swearing they will respond to any further aggression”. Russia suspended its memorandum with the US, endangering any jet flying over Syria without authorisation. Indeed, many countries which are part of the US-led coalition suspended their participation until diplomacy returns and replaces the confrontational language. But Russia is not expected to bring down any US jet and its approach seems, until today, not aggressive towards the US.
Russia is indeed today the key to a long war in Syria where the situation can deteriorate if its intervention remains “shy”. However, it is clear that Moscow is taking its time to think about the next steps, observing the new US administration’s behaviour following the sharp turn of Trump, who had declared that changing the regime in Syria was not his objective and then days later joined the voices to oust Assad from power.
In the meantime, Russia is bombing jihadist and rebel positions and asking for all modern Syrian Air Force jets to be placed at Hmaymeem, its military airport and base on the Syrian coast, equipped with S-300 and S-400 anti-air missiles and under its own protection. Moreover, Russia will increase the Syrian Air force capability and will supply Damascus with the weapons it was hesitant to do before the Tomahawk attack. Russia is aware that the war in Syria is not only about Assad but also about the failure or success of Russia and its reputation as a superpower. Russia is expected to adopt a much more aggressive military approach following news of the US possible supply of advanced weapons to rebels who work together with al-Qaeda in Syria. However, there is a danger of Russia looking weak faced with an aggressive US President and his team who are challenging Moscow in Syria and sending tomahawks over the heads of the Russian forces, forces which are actually physically present on the same military base (Sha’ayrat) that was hit by Trump Tomahawks.
Decision makers in Damascus (which adopts a more optimistic approach) said: “What has happened can only have a positive outcome. The Tomahawks have reinforced the Russian-Iranian relationship where tactical differences regarding the military operations were strongly present. Iran has been asking for Russian Air support to attack al-Qaeda and its allies in Idlib, the city that is very dear to Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and the US.
Russia, before the Tomahawks, rejected Iran’s request and aimed for a political resolution to the Syrian war rather than a military escalation- for fear of being dragged into the Syrian quagmire. The Afghanistan ghost is still hovering over Russia and Moscow has been avoiding any military escalation against the United States. But today Russia is much more convinced that no political solution will mature in Syria without eliminating or degrading al-Qaeda and its allies in Idlib, in a similar fashion to Aleppo. The longer Idlib remains under al-Qaeda, the higher the possibility of an extended duration of the war and the intervention of foreign forces in Syria, endangering both Syrian and Russian security”.
According to these decision makers in Syria, the US under Trump leadership is “much more dangerous than the leadership of a professional politician. Hillary Clinton wanted to intervene in Syria and Trump is walking on the same path but is much more aggressive towards Iran despite all the speculation regarding his positive contact with President Putin before he became President. Therefore, Syria is experiencing critical moments because its wide geography allows foreign forces to intervene using any pretext. Trump is using the terminology of “safe zones” in the south of Syria (to support Israel and create a buffer zone to the already existing occupied buffer zone in the Golan Heights), and in the northeast creating a Kurdistan Syria to the US’s advantage. Moreover, Turkey is already annexing part of northern Syria, and is not expected to leave anytime soon. All the talk about the unity of Syria is unfounded. The Khan Sheykhoun chemical attack is only an excuse for the partition of the country”.
Watching children struggling to breath and others dying in Khan Shaykhoun from nerve gas shook the world. From all the symptoms reported on social media, it is possible to confirm that a kind of nerve agent was present. Nevertheless, no scientific confirmation can lead to identification of the specific type of agent in the absence of a credible and impartial investigation on the ground to examine the location of the “attack” and the victims themselves. An examination of the agent would of course lead to its identification and consequently pinpoint the source.
Russia claims that a conventional attack hit a factory site with a chemical stockpile: this would be possible to confirm or deny if a physical investigation on the ground is carried out. However, al-Qaeda is in control of Khan-Shaykhoun and only the Guardian newspaper was allowed by the group to access a location the journalist was guided to , claiming it to be “innocent empty storage”, several days after the attack.
Moreover, the first responders, with bare hands, removed the victims to another location, a military setup in a large cave inside a mountain to flash water on the victims. The “white helmets” said to be on the spot within the first minutes, were obviously careless about the long minutes of the lethal effect of the nerve gas. This is another indication that no pure Sarin gas was used as the US Secretary of State claimed.
On social media, around 20 victims were filmed and exposed as a “proof”, while the number of victims pro al-Qaeda activists have provided is more than 90. Who are the other victims?
Serious doubts persist, whoever claims to hold the truth relating to the chemical attack. The opposition, the Jihadists, the regime supporters, activists, and analysts covering Syria: all have been involved in propaganda, manipulation of pictures and reporting one side of the story. If social media “proof” can trigger 59 Tomahawks, it won’t be surprising to see more similar “proof” in the future triggering the bombing of the Syrian Presidential Palace or a reason for thousands of US Marines to land in Syria.
The mainstream media is indeed influencing the inexperienced President, affecting his decisions (unless the bombing was just a pretext, which is most likely to be the case). Media have declared war on Assad since the first months of the war, reporting rumours and unconfirmed information without being on the ground in Syria (only a few newspapers maintain locals, who therefore are logically influenced by the militants where they live). These are driving for regime change, the partition of the country and the arming of the opposition and jihadists.
Assad was winning on all political and military fronts. He could have attacked a military zone, like Suran, where al-Qaeda fighters occupy the entire city without civilians, instead of a mixed residential and military area like Khan-Shaykoun. But again, no one holds the truth, and logic is not the strongest argument in any war.
Trump suggested his intervention was motivated by the “beautiful babies that were cruelly murdered”. The US President seems particularly drawn to the criminal act against the Syrian babies but not against all babies in the Middle East!
The Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen backed by the United States and the United Kingdom killed 10.000 men women and children and wounded 43,000. 462,000 children under 5 years of age are suffering from acute malnutrition and are at seriously risk dying. 7 million people are at risk of famine and 14 million are unable to benefit from any medical care.
In addition, al-Qaeda and ISIS are exploiting the governance vacuum. The US Commander of central command General Joseph Votel considers Yemen a US “Vital interest”. The UK admits it is aware of 257 allegations of Saudi breaches of International law and the US allowed Lockheed and Martin to sell about $11.2 bn in “multi-mission” warships.
If we look at the history of the US towards “children”, we can quickly remember the 500,000 Iraqi children killed in the 90’s by the embargo and the famous “it is worth it” acknowledgment by the Secretary of State Madeline Albright then. Moreover, over 1 million people were killed by the US in Iraq.
Trump was moved by the “beautiful children”? All children are beautiful in any country and they are indeed the main victims of the atrocity of war. Sacrificing the people of the Third World in order for a liberal democracy to survive is unfortunately part of a widespread and general policy and practice adopted for centuries. Keeping the Middle East busy with wars and containing terrorism within the “walls” of the Middle East is apparently considered the best way for liberal democratic societies to survive. This is called politics.