Now is the time to hit Assad hard, not withdraw

Now is the time to hit Assad hard, not withdraw

US President Donald Trump has made it clear that, with Daesh defeated, he wants to end the US military presence in Syria and bring his soldiers home. The horrific chemical gas attack on Douma is an indication of how important it is that, rather than withdraw, America re-engage in Syria.
Despite the denials from Damascus, there can be no doubt who did this. The only people who have what was required to carry out such a monstrous attack —  the capability, the chemical weapons arsenal, the callous disregard for civilian life — are the Assad regime. They have done it before. And unless they are stopped, they will do it again.
It has become evident that the only language the Assad regime understands is the language of force. In August 2012, Barack Obama said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be “a red line.” A year later, when Bashar Assad attacked his own people with sarin gas, that “red line” was forgotten. Today, the people of Douma are paying the price for a US president’s vacillation.

It has become evident that the only language the Assad regime understands is the language of force.

Faisal J. Abbas

However, who can forget the shock and awe when, in response to Assad’s chemical weapons attack in Idlib in April last year, President Trump ordered cruise missile strikes on the Syrian air base from where the attack was launched?
The Douma outrage cannot be read as anything but a response to the US announcement of withdrawal. It sends a clear sign to the international community of what kind of future awaits Syria — just when we all thought things could not become any worse. 
Indeed, such a vacuum would no doubt be viewed as an opportunity by the malign powers at work in this region, chief among them Iran.
Douma should ring alarm bells in Washington; far from withdrawal, what is required is greater engagement. If America takes that path, it can be sure that the whole world, including Saudi Arabia and its allies, will follow. 

• Faisal J. Abbas is the editor in chief of Arab News.
Twitter: @FaisalJAbbas

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