US Attack On Syria: Another Pretextual War – OpEd

Using unsubstantiated allegation of a gas attack by the Syrian government, the US government has unleashed its military power in what is likely to be judged by future historians as yet another “pretextual war,” notwithstanding the 2003 invasion of Iraq on a WMD hoax.

The remarkable consistency in US’ militarism irrespective of changing guards at the White House clearly shows that we must probe the causes deeper and look beyond the figure or figureheads in the White House. In raining down some 50 cruise missiles on the Syrian army, the Trump administration has simply shown that the rhetoric of change and house cleaning were just empty rhetoric and continuity rather than discontinuity with the past pattern of US militarism rules Washington.

By all indications, the purpose of this “surgical strike” was to preempt an independent investigation of the gas attack, which might well have been caused by the rebels and or explosion at a munition depot held by them due to an airstrike, as Russia insists, yet instead of pushing for an investigation, both the US government and the entire “free” US media lined up behind it, uniformly pinned the attack on Damascus in order to lay the groundwork for the military strike, with Trump shedding tears for the affected victims, numbering in a few dozens according to reports, i.e., a relatively small figure by the horrific standards of the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year.

Coinciding with a suicide bombing at a St. Petersburg’s metro, on the day visited by President Putin, suggesting a high-level coordination, the gas attack in Syria is, of course, unacceptable by any human standard but, really, the question is who were the perpetrators and if some foreign hands had something to do with it? This question owes itself to the fact that in the past there have been reports of sarin gas being funnelled to the Syrian rebels from Libya via the Saudis and the Qataris. Add to this the fact that ISIS terrorists have captured Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons factories in Iraq in the recent past and, therefore, it is a sure bet that they have used those weapons on a number of occasions.

In comparison, in 2013, under a US-Russia agreement, Syria agreed to and fully implemented a disarmament plan with respect to its chemical weapons stockpile, which was verified by both parties and the world’s experts, yet there would be no comparable dispossession of chemical weapons in the hands of Syrian rebels and various terrorist groups. The latter have been on the defensive for nearly two years and, now, all of a sudden due to the infusion of US military on their side, aimed at weakening the Syrian government, these groups are receiving a new lease of life, bound to lengthen Syria’s agony precisely at a time when the on-going peace talks are showing tangible signs of progress. Intent on denying Russia-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah a decisive victory, the purpose of US military action is to change the equation of forces and to turn the tide of war against Damascus, even if it means an overnight flip-flop on the fate of Assad.

Concerning the latter, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who was due in Moscow on April 11, was recently in Turkey lecturing the Turks about Syrians deciding their own fate, and yet he is now singing the tune of militarism, calling for Assad’s removal and a “transition” already under way. This is music in the ears of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, who were close to being branded as the losing party in Syria, now somewhat rescued by Trump and his “humanitarian strike” at Syria, which carries multiple ramifications: (a) it will signify a dangerous new low in US-Russia relations, (b) it will antagonize Tehran to the detriment of the moderate President Rouhani and the nuclear deal, (c) it will embolden the terrorists and extremists operating in Syria and will likely be interpreted by them as a sign the US air power is acting on their behalf. Indeed, if there were any chances of a united anti-ISIS front that would include Russia and Iran, that scenario is now blown into pieces by the very moment the US missiles landed in Syria.

What all this will mean for the future of US intervention in Syria remains to be seen, depending to some extent on Russia’s response. What is clear, however, is that the dire prediction of many peace activists such as Noam Chomsky about Trump’s threat to world peace is now being realized before our eyes, cleverly camouflaged under the banner of punishing the inhuman Syrians, and sheepishly toed by the US media, the New York Times in particular. No wonder the scientists have moved the doomsday clock closer to midnight.


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Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, Ph.D. is an Iranian-American political scientist and author specializing in Iran’s foreign and nuclear affairs, and author of several books.

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