Syria conflict and Trump turning a corner

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

A global conflict that has been bubbling beneath the surface for a while now can no longer be contained. And as you have seen on the front page of the paper you are reading, U.S. President Donald Trump has made his first major move as President in terms of dealing with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s continued violation of the law and use of chemical weapons.

Today as you are reading this, there is an all out war between the U.S. and Syria – one that is likely to escalate over the coming days since Trump has now issued the call for international support.

These are interesting times. We say this because the latest development signals a new side of Trump we have yet to see since he became the President of the world’s most powerful forces.

Now from international reports yesterday, President Trump had ordered the strike following Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack, which killed more than 80 civilians.

 “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” said Trump.

“It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.”

Trump added that his decision had been prompted in part by what he called the “failures by the world community to respond effectively” to the Syrian civil war.

 “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.

“As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen, and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.”

But that is not all.

President Trump said the use of chemical weapons to kill innocent lives couldn’t be tolerated by the world.

“Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the life of innocent men, women and children,” he said. “It was a slow and brutal death for so many, even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

Well we couldn’t agree more. 

But the President’s decision for the U.S. to strike is only likely to be the beginning. 

Yesterday’s attack is without a doubt a warning message from the U.S. to the world they will no longer stand idly while Assad uses chemical weapons to hurt innocent people. And it’s not just a warning to Assad and Syria. 

It is also a message to anyone else who might be tempted to follow suit.

As of last night, the Pentagon announced that 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles had been fired at Al Shayrat airfield in Syria. 

The missiles were aimed at Syrian fighter jets, hardened aircraft shelters, radar equipment, ammunition bunkers, sites for storing fuel and air defense systems. This by all means is only the beginning.

But where to from here?

Alexander Gillespie who is a Professor of Law at the University of Waikato makes some interesting observations. 

He writes: “The most pressing question from here is what happens next in the short term. For Bashar al-Assad, the option is to attack the 500 or so American troops in northern Syria helping with the attack on the ISIS held city of Raqqa.

“For Mr Putin, the choices are more nuanced. Russia is tied to Syria by a 1972 military alliance. It is this alliance which has been used as a spring-board for direct Russian intervention to prop up Assad. Even if Syria sees the American action as an act of war, this does not oblige Russia to do the same. Hopefully, Mr Putin will do what he does best, which is keep very calm in situations of stress, and serve his dish of revenge when it is cold. 

“He last did this when a Russian aircraft was shot down over Turkey, subsequently breaking Turkey out of its close relationship to the United States and Europe. In this instance, it is likely that the Russians were informed in advance of what was going to happen, with a tightly orchestrated attack against those responsible for the action against Khan Sheikhoun, as opposed to other less related targets. 

Not to have informed the Russians, or to risk Russian casualties, could pull the two sides into direct conflict that could be cataclysmic.”

“Assuming that this conflict does not escalate and that Assad and the Russians accept the action without retaliating, the real problem for Mr Trump is what to do next ? Firing missiles is the easy part. Stopping weapons firing is much harder. 

“Finding peace in Syria has been elusive since 2011. The fourth leg of the Geneva Peace Process recently concluded, with minimal progress. The same questions over what status Assad should have in any future government; what to do with terrorists; and whether the Kurds should have a separate homeland, continue to dominate the landscape. Without answering these questions there will never be peace in Syria. 

“Mr Trump had earlier suggested said that the removal of Bashar al-Assad was not part of this priority. He was scathing of Mr Obama’s action in Syria and warned about conflict with Russia. Now, everything has changed.”

These are certainly interesting times. We can only watch on and hope that somehow a solution is found before any more innocent lives are wasted.

Have a peaceful Saturday Samoa, God bless!

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