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Thursday, April 6, 2017

What Are The Effects Of The US Attack in Syria?

I've watched the coverage on many networks of the cruise missile attack by American forces on the air base in Syria from which Assad launched his criminal attack on civilians with sarin gas.  For the most part the coverage misses the point of what is actually happening.  This is not the start of an all out war involving the USA in Syria.  It is a targeted strike on one base which ought to have totally destroyed the ability of the Assad forces to use that air base for the foreseeable future.  There is no indication that there will be further strikes by US forces.  There is no indication that we will see American ground troops landing to fight the Assad forces.  It's a one time attack, a message not a war.  It tells Assad that no further chemical weapons attacks will be tolerated.

So what are the effects of this attack likely to be?

1.  Will Assad counterattack against Americans in Syria or elsewhere?  The almost certain answer is NO.  Assad had six functional air bases this morning.  Now, after an attack that took roughly half and hour, he has five left.  Assad knows that were he to retaliate against America, he would quickly have no air bases left and probably few army bases as well.  Fighting with the US military would be suicide for Assad.  There will be outrage stated by Assad, and there will surely be threats of retaliation.  There may even be false claims of "victories" against American forces.  This is what the Assad regime has done for many years in dealing with Israel.  When the Israelis strike with air power against convoys sending weapons from Syria to Hezbollah, the Syrian air force never rises to challenge the Israelis.  Usually, Syria does nothing.  On occasion, the Syrians launch anti-aircraft missiles which haven't hit an Israeli plane in this century.  The last time the Syrian air force rose to challenge the Israeli air force, the Syrians had 86 planes shot down while Israel lost none. 

2.  Will Russia or Iran retaliate against the USA for the attacks on their ally Assad?  This is more possible than any attack by Assad, but still very unlikely.  Russia certainly doesn't want to take any step that might lead to war with America.  Instead, the Russians would be more likely to move in a very indirect way.  They might increase their support to the Taliban in Afghanistan.  They might escalate the fighting in Ukraine.  More likely, however, the Russians will not respond since they have not been directly harmed or even threatened and since Assad did use chemical weapons.  Iran, however, may feel the need to take some action to show that it is not impressed or frightened by the American strike.  Iran is also unlikely to react directly, however.  It will act through proxies like Hezbollah or some other terror organization.  We may see Hezbollah start causing problems along the border between Lebanon and Israel.  That is something that the Israelis can handle.  With regard to direct conflict between Iran and the USA, the odds are very low.  Indeed, the attack in Syria should have the effect of reducing the Iranian harassment of shipping in the Persian Gulf.  Iran now understands that president Trump will actually react militarily (unlike Obama).

3.  Will there be any effect outside of Syria?  Here the answer is surely YES.  It's not a coincidence that this strike took place while the leader of China is in Florida meeting with President Trump.  The strike gives new credibility to President's Trump statement that America will deal with North Korea if China doesn't get the NKs in line.  Other countries can no longer assume that America will not take action no matter what the provocation.  The days of doing nothing while Obama dithered are over.

4.  Will the cruise missiles make America's troops on the ground in Syria targets for attack?  There is a slight risk of that.  The American troops are special operators who are working with the forces surrounding Raqqa, the ISIS capital.  These troops are already in danger from ISIS.  There are no Assad forces in the region, however.  They were pushed out long ago.  There are also no Iranian or Russian troops who would launch an attack on the Americans.



julianbook said...

It might be naive to think that somebody as vicious as Assad will just suck it up like a good boy. Or that Putin will stand by and have Trump slap around Assad. This is a slippery slope - diplomacy is always best. We can't be the world's policeman.

Jeff said...

The reality for Assad is that he is weak and totally dependent on his allies. He knows that any strike back against America will lead to the end of his regime. You are right that he is vicious, but he's no dummy. He understands what he has to do to survive and fighting against the USA is not on that list.