by Christopher W. Holton
I have mixed thoughts on the US cruise missile strike on the Syrian airfield last night.
These thoughts are going to appear all over the map but given the situation in the Middle East, that seems unavoidable:
• There can be no doubt that Syria’s armed forces launched the sarin attack that prompted the US cruise missile strike. The excuse that the Syrians and Russians gave that Al Nusra moved a sarin lab into the area and an air strike inadvertently released the chemicals is absurd. Sarin would burn off in such a strike and would not be dispersed in such a way as to cause mass casualties. Syrian forces have used fixed wing aircraft to launch chemical attacks in the past. It appears that the US military has intelligence, either through technical or human means–or both–about how the chemical attack was conducted.
• I hope that the cruise missile strike is strictly a punitive strike against Assad for his use of chemical weapons and not a signal that the US is getting more involved in the Syrian melee or choosing sides in a multi-sided war that has no good guys (in any significant numbers) on any side.
• America’s main interest in Syria continues to be the destruction of the Islamic State.
• The Jihadists who are arrayed against Assad are organizations that he for years supported and allowed to stage through Syria via rat lines into Iraq’s Al Anbar province. This is a case of Frankenstein’s monsters turning against Dr. Frankenstein.
• The pundits who are claiming that Assad is “secular” or a “protector of Christians” and therefore should not be targeted are ignorant. Assad has been a long-time sponsor of Jihadist terrorism. The groups that he is now fighting against were once under his protection. He is a long-time sponsor of Jihadist terrorism, particularly Hezbollah. Syria has protected and provided safe haven to Hezbollah for decades. Until September 11th, 2001, Hezbollah had racked up the highest body count of Americans of any terrorist organization in the world, including the 23 October 1983 Islamikaze bombing of the US Marine Barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. In other words, Assad is an enemy of the US and always has been. The fact that he dresses like a Westerner and is not a pious Muslim himself is completely irrelevant. Moreover, Assad has waged a propaganda campaign to convince gullible Westerners that he is a protector of Christians. It serves his purposes at this point to portray himself that way, but, remember, the organizations committing genocide against Christians in Syria today once enjoyed Assad’s protection.
• Obama was in a much better position to take action against Assad’s chemical arsenal years ago and failed to do so after speaking loudly about it. President Trump inherited a position of weakness and sought to re-establish American strength in the theater of operations.
• The Russians claimed that they had removed all of Syria’s chemical weapons back in 2014 in a deal trumpeted by the Obamanistas. They lied. The Russians lie. That is what they do.
• The key ally to the Russians and Syrians in the conflict is Iran, a mortal enemy of the US. That’s worth mentioning.