Two wrongs do not a right make. There’s little doubt that Bashar al-Assad has used brute military force to hang onto power, treating his own people as pawns in the great game of West Asia. But what have the US President Donald Trump and his triumphal allies Britain and France achieved? They have pounded an already battered Syria yet again with more than 100 missiles. Without waiting for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to begin their investigation in Douma, just 16 km from Damascus. Instead, Trump and his friends, true to their calling, depended only on Pentagon reports about Assad’s ‘chemical arsenal’.
There’s no two ways about it: Assad deserved to be punished if he had actually used dirty weapons against his own people. He has countered that it was not him, but the rebels. Without a probe by a UN-backed body, there’s no way to know the truth. And despite Trump’s brag talk, it’s admittedly a precision strike, no more. Assad is safe and sound as before, secure with his backing from Russia and Iran. In fact, he is in recovery mode. Does that mean all this was only shadow-boxing between the West and Russia taking the shape of a regional conflict, leaving much of West Asia in ruins?
Reports suggest the strike has improved the French premier’s ‘he-man’ rating! Well, Russia did move a UN resolution condemning the Syria strike, but it had few backers, except for China, from the big boys club. Syria has been smashed beyond recognition by the civil war, but it’s still a step away from utter chaos, at least in the areas controlled by Assad. Perhaps that’s why all players, including the Saudis, Israel and the Emirates, maintain a ‘this far and no further’ tone.
However, keeping Syria on the boil will not help anyone in the long run. A semblance of peace and coercive, intensive diplomacy may. A new political order, maybe a neutral hand like India, with no to axe to grind, can chip in. Believe it or not, Damascus may not mind Delhi.