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Joint strike on Syria won’t improve the ground situation

The fighting has already triggered one of the worst humanitarian crises and largest refugee movements in recent decades

editorials Updated: Apr 17, 2018 11:15 IST
Syria,US,Chemical weapons
(FILES) This file photo taken on May 26, 2017 shows (L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Donald Trump and Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May attending the Summit of the Heads of State and of Government of the G7 plus the European Union in Taormina, Sicily. The US, Britain and France ordered overnight on April 14, 2018 a major military operation by deciding to conduct joint strikes against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks. (AFP)

The strike by the US, Britain and France on facilities in Syria that produce chemical weapons, which used more than 100 Cruise missiles, will do little to alter the situation in the West Asian country, which has been mired in a bloody civil war that has claimed more than half a million lives over the past seven years. The strike, as the Western allies have pointed out, was a one-off aimed at deterring President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons against his own people. It followed the death of some 40 people in a suspected chemical attack in Douma. Clearly, such a strategy hasn’t worked in the past. Just a year ago, US President Donald Trump carried out a strike with 59 Cruise missiles after a chemical attack killed more than 80 people. The red lines established by the US and its allies haven’t really deterred the Assad regime.

More important, the Western powers, especially the US, appear to have no real strategy to cope with the complex situation in Syria or to force an end to the fighting. Top US leaders appear divided on how long the 2,000-odd American troops in Syria — sent to assist in the fight against the Islamic State — will remain in that country. The picture is further complicated by the presence of Russian mercenaries, Iran-backed militias and President Vladimir Putin’s unconditional support for Assad. The fighting has already triggered one of the worst humanitarian crises and largest refugee movements in recent decades, with Turkey and Lebanon alone having taken in more than one million Syrians each. In contrast, the US – which says it is acting to protect Syria’s civilian population – has taken in just 11 Syrian refugees this year, down from 790 during the same period last year. Even more damning is that fact that the deal brokered by the US and Russia in 2013 to destroy Syria’s stock of chemical weapons clearly hasn’t worked.

As things stand now, the war in Syria is largely about those who want Assad to remain in power, and those who don’t. Assad, thanks to the support from Russia and Iran, appears to be winning. India, with its growing security ties with the US and long-standing strategic relations with Russia, finds itself in a difficult position. India has deplored the use of chemical weapons but also called for dialogue and negotiations to end the suffering of the Syrian people but it knows that a regime change, which some Western powers appear to be pushing for, isn’t the real solution.

First Published: Apr 17, 2018 11:14 IST