Impacts of US sudden attack in Syria

China Military
Yao Jianing

BEIJING, April 11 (ChinaMil) -- Analysts believed that the United States' sudden military action on Syria will make the already difficult Syrian issue more complex, impairing the political resolution process of the Syrian issue. But it is still too early to assert that the action will escalate to large-scale conflicts.

The US considerations

The US government repeated for many times the reasons for the military action in Syria. The US Department of Defense said that the Syrian government force launched a chemical attack at the Shayrat military airport, and the US' attack intended to stop the Syrian government from using chemical weapons again.

The US President Trump said in a televised speech on the evening of April 6 that the military strike command was issued by him. He said that Syria's use of chemical weapons is an "irrefutable" fact and that the United States' military strike intended to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons, which was "in line with the important national security interests of the United States."

The US Secretary of State Tillerson said that the Syrian battlefield is plagued by terrorism and has intricate relations among different parties. Once the chemical weapons fall into the hands of criminals and are used for attacks to the United States, the US citizens will be subject to a serious threat.

The chemical weapons incident the US government alleged occurred on April 4 in the Idlib Province in Syria. The United States along with other Western countries and Syrian opposition accused the Syrian air force of the implementation of chemical attacks, but the Syrian government and Russia denied the accusation, claiming that the incident was the leakage of toxic substances resulting from the Syrian government force's hitting an extreme organization's arsenal that secretly stored chemical weapons.

The fact-finding mission of the United Nations on Syrian chemical weapon issues announced that it had begun to collect relevant information to determine whether a chemical attack has occurred. The truth of the chemical weapon attack is currently inconclusive.

The US public opinion pointed out that Trump's fast decision-making on launching strikes to Syria has exceeded the expectations of many observers. The move may carry two purposes: first, to achieve the effect of surprise in the tactics, and second, to shape the political image of President Trump as being bold and decisive, so as to form a sharp contrast with the former president Obama who was hesitant on the Syrian issue.

In addition, another purpose of the US' attack on Syria may be the US' intention to seize the initiative on the Syrian issue against Russia.

Since Russian military involvement in the Syrian issue in September 2015, it helped the Syrian government to reverse the inferior position in the battlefield, and actively mediated various parties toward peace talks, so that the dominant position of the United States which supports the Syrian opposition has been losing in Syrian political process.

The military action can not only make a blow to the Syrian government forces, but also exhibit to Russia the position of the US in Syria that cannot be ignored.

US officials once said not long ago that the priority of the Trump government for solving the Syrian issue is not to overthrow Syrian President Bashar's rule. This changed the Obama administration's policy of overthrowing the Bashar regime, which was seen as a major change in the US' attitude on the Syrian issue. However, the Trump's move of ordering the strike to Syria showed that his attitude to the Bashar regime has reversed.

Multiple impacts

Analysts believe that the Syrian situation involving many aspects is very complex, so the United States' attack on Syria may have multiple influences.

First, the actions against terrorism of the Islamic State will be affected. In the recent period, various parties have made significant progresses in combats against the extremist Islamic State.

The Syrian government is currently fighting the Islamic State in the eastern part of the Hims Province, and the Shayrat military airport provides important support for the fight. The attack to the airport will definitely affect the actions of Syrian government forces against the Islamic State.

Second, the Syrian crisis will be more complicated. The anti-government forces which had been suppressed in the battlefield by the government forces may launch a counterattack, leading to the escalation of the conflict, which in turn will make the political resolution process of the Syrian issue more difficult.

Third, the Russia-US relations will be further impaired. Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation Council Defense and Security Committee Chairman Ozelov denounced on April 7 that the United States' attack to Syria was an action of "aggression". Ozelov also said that Russia may suspend an agreement with the United States about coordination actions between the two countries in Syria.

Future trends

Although the United States' sudden military action on Syria went beyond the expectations of many experts, some analysts believed that this does not necessarily mean that the United States will launch wider military operations in Syria in the future.

From the experience of past military intervention of the United States in other countries, direct military force projection to Syria is likely to throw the United States into a quagmire.

Even with regard to this military strike, according to a US military official, the action that Trump decided to take was only a more conservative option among the ones presented by the Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

In addition, the US Department of Defense declared that in order to minimize the risk for the Russian side because of the blow, the US military had informed the Russian side of the attack in advance. Although Ozelov denied this statement, the United States' emphasis on this point also indicates that the US does not want to darken the relations with Russia, leaving some leeway.

From the Russian side, some analysts held that despite the current tough declarations of the Russian official side, the chances that the Russian side takes vigorous actions to intensify the situation are slim. Russia's reaction will be relatively restrained.

From the Syrian government side, although the Syrian state television accused the military operation by the United States an "aggression", the Syrian government has announced no position for a long time afterwards.

Prior to this, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said that Syria supports the international community to investigate the chemical weapons incident.

Some analysts believed that the Syrian government's option to keep a low profile after the attack may be to avoid the escalation of contradictions with the United States. Active cooperation with the international investigation into the incident and leaving no excuse for the United States to take further actions will be more favorable to the Syrian side.

By Che Hongliang and Zhou Erjie from the Xinhua News Agency

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