The US Ponders a Strike Against Syrian Government Forces: What’s Behind This Aggressive Approach?
The US is considering the option of military action against Syria. The alleged use of chemical weapons (CW) by the Syrian government, which is not backed by any solid evidence, is to serve as the pretext. Syrian President Assad is going to be “punished.” On March 6, US President Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu discussed the threat posed by Iran’s presence in Syria and ways to counter it.
Chemical weapons? But why should Syria’s President Assad use them if he has had no trouble winning with conventional weapons wherever he goes? Couldn’t the rebels be using CW? Instances of that have been uncovered and confirmed. But no, US officials don’t even bother to give a passing thought to such “unimportant and irrelevant” considerations. They know better who to blame and who deserves to be made to pay for the wrongdoings they believe have taken place. In April, 2017, the US delivered a missile strike against a Syrian military facility, in flagrant violation of international law.
It’s worth noting that a group of US senators visited Israel in late February. According to them, a conflict between Israel and the pro-Iranian forces in southern Lebanon was imminent and that fighting would likely encompass Syria as well. Israel has been increasing its support of proxy groups in Syria recently.
Senator Lindsey Graham believes that Tehran is “testing” the US and Israel and that the administration is not doing enough to push back against Iran in Syria and throughout the Middle East.
On Feb. 28, just three days before Israeli PM Netanyahu arrived in the US on March 4, Fox News offered its audience an exclusive report on a military base being built by Iran in Syria. It claimed this information was evidence that Tehran was preparing for a permanent presence in the country. The story was presented as a real scoop and the timing was carefully chosen. The report plays into the hands of both the administration and as well as those in Congress who are calling for a more resolute stand on Syria.
Israel enjoys almost unlimited US backing, which forces America to become involved directly or indirectly in the hostilities. Last month, French President Emmanuel Macron said he would order airstrikes against Syria if the use of CW were confirmed.
Israel is a privileged ally but it’s not only Israeli security that drives American policy. And it’s not so much Syria but Iran the US has in its crosshairs. If America allows Iran a land bridge linking it to the Mediterranean via Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, this will frustrate its main Middle East allies – the Persian Gulf monarchies. Lebanon will leave the sphere of Western influence. The tensions between Sunni Arab states and Iran boost US arms sales to rich Middle Eastern countries, which is hugely profitable. Thus a belligerent stand toward Tehran allows America to preserve its political clout in a region where its policy has been such a disaster in recent years.
It will be too hard to reach any agreement on the recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the eastern Mediterranean, which are a bone of contention between Israel and Lebanon. And the gas exports from these fields could diminish or eliminate the need to import Russian gas to Southern Europe, which would kill the prospects for the Turkish Stream project. Without Iran, Lebanon could be pressured into an agreement on terms dictated by Israel and America’s European allies.
With access to the Mediterranean, Iran could build naval bases that would threaten the NATO naval forces there. The ability to ship exports by sea would boost Iran’s income, making the country richer and more powerful.
Attacking Syrian forces to force a retreat will reduce Moscow’s influence and hamper the diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Syria that have been so successful recently. So-called “rebel groups,” so recently and spectacularly defeated, will reemerge as a force to be reckoned with. From Washington’s perspective, a divided Syria with vast swaths under the control of pro-US and Israel-backed groups is better than a united country in which the West can take part in the peace talks but not as a party that controls territory or exerts significant influence on the balance of power.
Inventing a reason to use force against Syria is a way to fight Iran and roll Russia back. This is a very dangerous policy. As a result, Syria will become a battlefield where powerful actors clash in their pursuit of strategic goals. That will be much worse than fighting jihadists. This scenario can be avoided through diplomatic efforts headed by Russia with the input of all. That’s what Moscow is talking about but the US does not listen. There were times when the US ignored Moscow’s concerns about Russia’s security. On March 2, Russian President Putin unveiled information about the new super weapons Russia alone possesses in the world today. In this same manner Washington may find that participating in Moscow-sponsored peace initiatives is a much better way to settle the Syrian conflict than instigating tensions as it is now doing, but it may already be too late.
Reprinted with permission from Strategic Culture Foundation.