The American attack against a Syrian air base in the early hours of yesterday morning risks unpredictable consequences, in a conflict where a peaceful solution is even further from reach. The military action is in response to the use of chemical weapons through an air strike upon a rebel-held area, almost certainly from Al-Assad, which caused numerous civilian casualties. Although Syria's civil war has already left a devastating trail of death and destruction and has forced millions of people to abandon their homes, like any armed conflict, there are internationally agreed-upon rules that must be adhered to. One of the main rules is the absolute prohibition of the use of weapons of mass destruction, including chemical weapons.
The blatant violation of war conventions and promises made by Damascus three years ago after their use of chemical weapons has placed the new U.S. administration in a difficult position, seeing the agreement reached by Barack Obama completely collapse. Perhaps Al-Assad has acted on the false belief that the harmony between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin would mean that his crimes would go unpunished. However, the 59 Tomahawk missiles launched against a Syrian military base are clear proof that this will not be the case.
There is no doubt that ideally, America’s actions would have been preceded by some type of multilateral support. Undeniably, this should have come from the United Nations, but let’s not kid ourselves. Moscow has already demonstrated that it is willing to block any of the Security Council’s initiatives that could be detrimental to its protégé in Damascus. It is Russia that has prevented the implementation of any support mechanisms, including an impartial international investigation into the chemical attack. With Moscow’s obstructive actions, Trump had little room for maneuver, especially if he wanted to send a firm message to Al-Assad and other regimes prone to violating the principles and treaties within which peace and international security lie. It is still impossible to say whether the attack has been successful or not. It will depend on whether the action is enough to force Russia and Iran to implement, once and for all, a peace process that includes the exit of the Assad government.