Western airstrikes will achieve little while barbaric Assad remains in power

Experts say Western powers are unlikely to include eliminating the Syrian officers responsible for chemical warfare under Iranian and Russian experts guidance. AFP
Updated 15 April 2018

Western airstrikes will achieve little while barbaric Assad remains in power

  • Tehran is accused by Saudi Arabia and the US, among others, of transferring ballistic missiles to Houthi militants in Yemen
  • Syria’s crossing of “red lines” has become a sport in the seven years since the Syrian people rebelled against Assad’s regime

LONDON: Any military strike on Syria that stops short of removing Bashar Assad will be strategically useless.
Donald Trump says that he has not yet made a decision about possible action despite earlier tweets suggesting a strike was imminent.
US warships are positioning in the eastern Mediterranean, and the UK and France are building momentum toward punishing those responsible for launching chemical attacks on Douma.
But the perpetrators of those attacks, which killed 32 and injured hundreds, would have long disbanded and the military installations responsible for producing the chemicals have been dismantled and cleared.
So what are the options left for the Western countries to target?
The list could include more traditional targets such as military airfields, army bunkers, ammunition stores, antiquated regime surface-to-air missile batteries and radars.
But targets such as the elite units tasked with protecting Damascus and ensuring the safety of the president and his regime might yield more long-term results if the aim is to stop the regime bombing and gassing its own people.
But Western powers are unlikely to include eliminating the Syrian officers responsible for chemical warfare under Iranian and Russian experts’ guidance.
All of the above could amount to a slap on the wrist of the regime without a greater long-term impact. At the same time, the Russian, Iranian and some Arab propaganda tools will be at work to discredit the strikes as a colonialist and imperialist intervention and example of double-standards.
Syria’s crossing of “red lines” has become a sport in the seven years since the Syrian people rebelled against Assad’s regime.
The president has been emboldened by his closest ally, Vladimir Putin, who is a specialist at ignoring moral and legal boundaries when it comes to using chemical agents to remove opponents.
Just ask the British authorities who have laid the blame for a recent assassination attempt against a former Russian spy and his daughter squarely on the Kremlin.
Assad’s other closest ally, Iran, has never demonstrated much sensitivity in respecting international conventions about human rights or banning the use of non-conventional weapons.
Tehran is accused by Saudi Arabia and the US, among others, of transferring ballistic missiles to Houthi militants in Yemen to target the Kingdom’s capital and other provinces.
Trump has suggested he had little doubt that Syria’s regime was to blame for the attack on Douma on April 7.
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons inspectors will visit Douma, the site of the attack.
But some chemical agents, such as chlorine, leave little trace over time. Last year, Washington responded to the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack by launching dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in the north of the country, but this did not deter Assad from using chemical agents against civilian areas since.
Russian lawmakers have warned the US that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct US-Russian military clash.
Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted — a stark warning of a potential major confrontation between global superpowers.
The Russian comments are mostly for media consumption: Israel has made several painful strikes against Hezbollah and Iran’s bases, and yet Moscow managed then to turn a blind eye.
If an extended campaign in Syria is launched, with apprehending Assad as its main objective — and to punish his use of chemical weapons now, and in the past — the same campaign must punish his use of torture against opponents, and hold him accountable for launching ballistic missile strikes on rebel cities across his country, or even dropping barrel bombs to terrorize civilians in rebel-held towns.
Above all, maybe a campaign by the West to uphold the “red lines” Assad is so quick to cross will bring an end to the international impasse in trying to resolve the conflict.
Perhaps such strikes could break the cycle and revitalize the search for a peace deal on Syria and elsewhere by all parties.


Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

Updated 07 December 2019

Lebanese lawmakers to defy naming of new PM

  • Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption

BEIRUT: Three lawmakers and members of Lebanese President Michel Aoun’s parliamentary bloc will not abide by its decision to name a new prime minister on Monday. 

Meanwhile, activists in the civil movement are holding meetings to announce a general strike and the blocking of roads on Monday in protest over reports that the new government will not include technocrats.

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted the resignation of his government on Oct. 29 as a result of ongoing mass protests against corruption. He later said he would not agree to head a new government unless it consisted of technocrats.

Lawmaker Neemat Frem urged citizens to provide him with the name of their favorite candidate to head the new government, “for you are the primary source of authority, and it is my duty to convey your voice in the binding parliamentary consultations.”

Lawmaker Chamel Roukoz said he will not nominate anyone for the position of prime minister.

Lawmaker Michel Daher declared his intention to boycott the parliamentary consultations if Al-Khatib is the only candidate.

Aoun assured a delegation of British financial and investment institutions, and US bank Morgan Stanley, that binding parliamentary consultations will take place on Monday to form a new government, which will help Lebanon’s friends launch agreed-to development projects.

“The new government’s priority will be to address the economic and financial conditions as soon as it is formed,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Samir Al-Khatib is considered the most favored candidate after preliminary consultations conducted by Aoun with his allies prior to setting the date for binding parliamentary consultations to nominate a Sunni prime minister, as required by the Lebanese constitution.

On Friday, Hariri sent letters to the leaders of a number of countries with good relations with Lebanon. 

He asked them to help Lebanon secure credit to import goods from these countries, in order to ensure food security and availability of raw materials for production in various sectors.

His media office said the move “is part of his efforts to address the shortage of financial liquidity, and to secure procuring the basic import requirements for citizens.”

Among the leaders Hariri wrote to are Saudi Arabia’s King Salman; the presidents of France, Russia, Egypt and Turkey; the prime ministers of China and Italy; and the US secretary of state.

On Dec. 11, Paris is due to host a meeting of the International Support Group for Lebanon. Reuters quoted a European source as saying: “France has already sent invitations to attend the group meeting.”

Protesters continued their sit-ins in front of government institutions in Nabatieh, Zahle and Saida.

In Tripoli, protesters blocked the city’s main roads, which were eventually reopened by the army.

In Akkar, protesters raided public institutions and called for an “independent government that fights corruption, restores looted funds, and rescues the economic situation and living conditions from total collapse.”

Lebanese designer Robert Abi Nader canceled a fashion show that was due to be organized in Downtown Beirut, where protesters are gathering. 

Abi Nader said he intended through his show to express support for the protests by designing a special outfit called “the bride of the revolution,” and revenues were to be dedicated to families in need.