US Syria policy: U-turn or O-turn?
(Featured image: Global Research)
For the past six years, the US has not directly targeted the Assad regime. The hesitant Barack Obama policy towards the Syrian crisis has been enough motivation for both Iran and Russia to enter full force to support Assad and show off their influence in the Middle East in general. The Russians, who used to take the US into account before any military action outside the Russian territories, crossed many Western red lines, the most important of which was the annexation of Ukrainian Crimea. Moscow then formed a number of separatist militias in the eastern part of Ukraine, bringing the country into a state of war, conflict and economic crisis. Iran also stepped up its military intervention in the Middle East, led by sectarian militias in Syria and Iraq. Iran has also backed Houthi’s militia in Yemen, bringing the country into a war that has killed more than 100,000 civilians. In the east, North Korea carried out three nuclear tests and launched 4 intercontinental ballistic missiles. All of these developments are an inevitable result of the weakness of the former US administration.
BUT, in the morning of April 7, two US warships fired 59 medium-range Tomahawk missiles at an Assad regime military airbase from which the aircraft that caused the chemical massacre in Khan Sheikhoun took off. This was a turning point in the Syrian crisis. The American strike has hit headlines all over the world. The US President Donald Trump who has been surrounded, since he took office last January, by doubts about a covert link with the Kremlin, closed, with this blow, all doors to his critics. The strike sent an indirect message to both Iran and North Korea about the seriousness and firmness of the new US administration.
For the Syrian crisis, the strike was a warning to all the international par ties involved that Washington has returned to the international arena and that any future plan to resolve the Syrian crisis will not be passed without the approval of Washington or, better, the solution will be submitted by Washington.
As for the Middle East, the American strike has conveyed a message to the Arab allies, on top Saudi Arabia, that the policy of the former administration, which gave the green light to Iran, is over and that things will return to normality. In fact, this is exactly what happened. After a meeting with Trump, King Abdullah of Jordan stressed on the inevitability of Assad’s departure for the Syrian conflict to come to an end. Turkey, which has re-established relations with Russia because of the cold relations with the former US administration, will re-evaluate its commitments to Moscow on Syria with a strong US administration in office.
The final statement of the G7 meeting held in Italy has emphasized that Assad has no role in the future of Syria, thus setting the stage for more serious steps to be taken by the participants. In the coming days, we will witness important field developments on the Syrian territories regarding ISIS and Assad. Moreover, the circle of action will expand to include spheres of Iranian influence in the Middle East, such as Iraq and Yemen.
Still, only time will tell whether this is a U-turn in the US Syria policy or a mere wishful thinking.
Eva J. Koulouriotis is a Greek political analyst specialized in the Middle East. Twitter: @evacool_f, Facebook: @evakoulouriotis