What will Tomahawk retaliation bring to Syria?

Published 11.04.2017 23:17
Updated 11.04.2017 23:18

Bashar Assad's chemical attack on civilians in Syria has not gone unpunished this time. Having committed many war crimes before the eyes of the world in the past, the Assad regime thought it would be able to launch yet another blatant attack. Indeed, the chemical weapons attack on [the Damascus suburb of] Ghouta in 2013 is still fresh in the mind. When photos of a much worse massacre flooded news agencies, the first thing to come to mind was the Obama administration's famous statement "Chemical weapons are our red line." In fact, I was on an official plane to cover a foreign visit by then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when photos began to stream in, upon which then-Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu gathered the journalists and said, "At last, our righteousness is validated beyond doubt. Assad won't manage to remain in power anymore." Though years have passed since then, Assad is still in power and continues his attacks. So, I look at those arguing "Assad couldn't be behind this attack" with disbelieving eyes. Why assume that a butcher-dictator, who has not faced any sanctions until today, should balk at such an attack?

Now, the new U.S. administration has reacted for the first time and fired 59 Tomahawk missiles in response to the chemical attack. But will this attack change things in any way? To get to the main point: Will it help to topple Assad?

Of course, this attack is not capable of ousting Assad militarily. But it shows one thing: If it happens once, it can happen again. In other words, at least Assad knows now that a chemical attack will not go unpunished. Moreover, the U.S. has become directly involved in Syria. This move has immensely strengthened Trump's hand because it was made in spite of Russia when his ties to Russia were being questioned. In short, Trump now has a trump card against those circles in the U.S. attacking him over ties with Russia.

Obviously, this move should be followed by further actions. Serious support exists in the international community for a short and targeted U.S. intervention, which is based on legitimate ground like the one in Bosnia, to overthrow the Assad regime, but not for the type of prolonged interventions seen in Iraq and Afghanistan that disrupted the balances in the region. In the face of such a spectacle, even Russia cannot back Assad openly. Therefore, this momentum should not be lost. If follow-up attacks aimed to wipe out Syrian Air Forces are launched, the current state of affairs in Syria may change.

For a long time now, there has been a stalemate in Syria. Instead of ending the war, the focus is on fighting Daesh. And that involves the only option facing Assad after Daesh's defeat. Turkey has warned from the beginning that this is a very dangerous tendency. What matters most is the fight against Daesh and Assad and the struggle with all players involved in the present situation. In other respects, that amounts to clearing the way for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the PKK's Syrian affiliate.

Indeed, it seems that Raqqa will be taken by some Arab elements within the PYD-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Put differently, fighting against Assad and Daesh at the same time means automatically strengthening the PYD. In short, seen from Turkey's perspective, the Syrian war portends rather unpleasant developments in all respects. And these problems are not limited to Syria, either.

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