Trump’s unpredictability is what the Mideast needs
US President Donald Trump’s decision to destroy a Syrian airbase used to deploy chemical weapons against civilian targets shows he can do what needs to be done in the Middle East. The bombing of the airbase, the first by the US in the six-year-long effort by Syria’s terrorist leader Bashar Assad to suppress pro-democracy protesters, is only one example of Trump’s evolving regional policy.
Although he campaigned on the platform of being Israel’s strongest ally, heaping praise on its right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump drew a line in the sand over Israel’s continued expansion of illegal, Jewish-only settlements. He has reinforced his relations with moderate Arab leaders as strongly as he has with Israel but without the political fanfare, directing the attack on Syria just hours after conferring with Jordan’s King Abdallah.
No place in the Middle East, besides the turmoil in occupied Palestine, deserves US involvement more than Syria. Trump has proven that although he may not be as eloquent as his predecessor Barack Obama, his ineloquence has more resonance.
After six months of violence against civilians by the terrorist Assad, Obama called on him to resign and vowed to help the Syrian people in August 2011. A year later, Obama issued his famous “red line” speech on Syria’s use of chemical weapons to massacre civilians demanding democracy and protesting the Assad family’s tyranny.
Responding to a reporter’s query on Syrian use of chemical weapons, Obama said forcefully: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”
Sadly, it took another year before Assad claimed to have ended his chemical weapons-manufacturing capabilities, and on Sept. 4, 2013, Obama backed off the tough talk on Syria, meekly saying it was the international community that set the “red line.”
In the shadow of Obama’s failed leadership, civil war consumed Syria, more than 2 million civilians became refugees, and Al-Qaeda terrorists who had bloomed in the wake of the failed US war in neighboring Iraq exported their violence under the name of Daesh, declaring an “Islamic State” in June 2014.
Though Trump had indicated a desire to avoid any involvement in Syria, he quickly reversed his stand following meetings with King Abdallah and after seeing photos of Syrian children killed by the chemical attack. In less than 72 hours, Trump targeted the airbase where the Syrian jets that dropped the chemical weapons had originated. And he gave Syria’s Russian sponsors less than 90 minutes notice before 59 Tomahawk missiles destroyed the airbase.
The bombing of the Syrian airbase, the first by the US in the six-year-long effort by Syria’s terrorist leader Bashar Assad to suppress pro-democracy protesters, is only one example of Trump’s evolving regional policy.
The attack on Syria raised questions about the fake news embraced by the mainstream US news media, which has been pushing the lie that Moscow controls Trump’s administration. The Russians went into shock when Trump ordered the attack as he was meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In one military action in defense of millions of civilians who have lived in fear of Assad’s military atrocities, Trump shattered all the beliefs the mainstream news media had been peddling about his administration.
Syria and Assad are the cornerstone of the violence that has spread throughout the Middle East. He is one of a three-headed snake, including Iran and Hezbollah, that torments the region. This snake nearly destroyed Lebanon, allowed Israeli atrocities to go unchallenged, and seeks to undermine moderate Arab leaders, targeting Jordan, the Gulf states and Iraq.
Until Assad’s regime is destroyed and his family placed in chains, there can be no progress in building democracy in Iraq, securing the future of Lebanon and the Gulf, or confronting growing extremism in Israel, which has rebuffed peace in favor of violent religious oppression. Assad is the sewer that empties the swamp of Middle East extremism. Taking him out will weaken Iran and its client militia Hezbollah.
Left unchecked, the Syria-Iran-Hezbollah triumvirate will eventually destabilize neighboring moderate Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and the UAE by allowing religious extremists like Daesh to grow.
Unlike his predecessors, Trump is not afraid to stand up for principle in the Middle East. He might be able to bring Assad to heel, push Israel to finally take peace talks with the Palestinians seriously, and lead a regional coalition that could see Israel in a two-state solution stand with the Arab world to destroy the rising religious fanaticism of Daesh.
When Trump speaks of “change,” which was the foundation of his election campaign, this is what he means. You can stand with your allies and with principle too. In response, the brazen Assad, who has murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians to suppress the rebellion against him, launched more aircraft from the devastated Shayrat airbase. But not worrying about what further action Trump might take is a fatal risk for terrorists such as Assad.
• Ray Hanania is an award-winning Palestinian-American former journalist and political columnist. Email him at [email protected].