On Friday evening, Washington D.C. time, the United States along with the United Kingdom and France launched a missile strike on Syria in response to the recent chemical weapons attacks in Douma. The missile attack targeted several facilities thought to be involved with the production of chemical weapons.
When President Trump addressed the nation and world about the new round of missile attacks in Syria, he stated that the United States would continue its response as long as Syria resorts to the use of chemical weapons. “We are prepared,” Trump said, “to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.” His statement comes just two weeks after he pushed for the immediate withdraw of U.S. forces from Syria.
President Trump also stated in his address a message for Russia and Iran. “What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children,” he asked. He then pushed Russia to live up to its 2013 promise to eliminate all of Syria’s chemical weapons. “In 2013, President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons. Assad’s recent attack—and today’s response—are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise.”
Russia’s response to the missile strikes by the United States, United Kingdom, and France was by saying that there would be “consequences” to the action. Russia also called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council and said it was considering arming Syria with S-300 missile systems to help protect against future attacks. The latter seems more likely since the UNSC rejected Russia’s bid to condemn the airstrikes.
The U.S. and its allies have had a hard time of developing a strategy for Syria. It was a year ago that the United States launched a missile strike in response to a previous chemical attack. The fact there have been more chemical strikes since then shows the strikes did not achieve their goal of stopping the use of chemical weapons. Ryan Crocker, who has served as a U.S. ambassador to Syria said the strikes likely created a new unintended problem. In an interview on CNN he explained, “When we launch strikes against chemical weapons capabilities, and only chemical weapons capabilities, we are in effect saying, ‘You know what Mr. Assad? You can kill your people… just don’t use chemical weapons to do it.’”
The missile strikes on Syria are just the latest turn of events in what started out as a civil war but has taken on regional and international strategic significance. What has started off as a campaign by the United States to fight ISIS has now turned into a campaign to stop the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians. For the United States, Syria has become a showdown with Russia. What the endgame would look like is anyone’s guess at the moment.