April 7 marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict. After six years of negative and indifferent US positions on the situation in Syria, the US military launched a series of missile attacks against an air base in northern Syria. The attack was in retaliation for the Syrian regime’s chemical weapon attack on its own civilians.
The Shayrat air base strike indicates that US President Donald Trump is more willing to use military force in Syria than was his predecessor, Barack Obama.
After the strike, the entire world was made aware that the US had returned to the region with a retaliatory attack. It also reminded Russia and Iran that they were not the only actors in the Syrian scenario and that a political solution must be found immediately.
Many analysts say the strike goes beyond Syria; it is a message to Russia, China and North Korea.
After April 7 when the US Tomahawks hit Syria, meetings and talks were held in order to find a solution.
For years, Russia has backed Syrian President Bashar Assad who is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and the displacement and exile of millions. Despite this, it was only when chemical weapons were used that one heard objections. Washington accused Russia of covering up the chemical attack.
By backing Assad, Russia hopes to settle many differences with the US and Europe and extract concessions on Ukraine and Crimea.
The West knows this well so it sent a message to Russia.
When the US says Russia must choose between Assad and America, that means a great deal.
One can expect to see more American strikes against the Assad regime and more countries taking part in the fight there. The price for Assad’s and Iranian terrorist militias’ war crimes is unfortunately being paid by the Syrian people.
Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri
But is Moscow willing to let go of Assad? Does it have a Plan B? Or does Russian President Vladimir Putin believe he can sit in both camps?
Ever since the days of Czar Peter the Great, Russia has dreamed of reaching and controlling the Mediterranean basin.
It will be difficult for Russia to abandon Assad if it is to achieve its plans to expand and move its fight into Syria or the Middle East.
Superpowers apparently prefer proxy wars to facing each other directly.
If Moscow does not withdraw its support for Assad, the world should not be surprised to see a federal or a divided Syria.
Russia has, however, already divided Syria by choosing the Alawite coast for its naval base.
Things will not be easy in Syria. One can expect to see more American strikes against the Assad regime and more countries taking part in the fight there.
Syria has become the battlefield for different forces vying for power.
The price for Assad’s and Iranian terrorist militias’ war crimes is unfortunately being paid by the Syrian people.
• Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri is a political analyst and international relations scholar.