Trump strikes Syria: Is this what the world was waiting for?

Ehtesham Shahid
Ehtesham Shahid
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As precision guided US Tomahawk missiles swooped down on Syria’s Shayrat air base in the wee hours of Friday, the Middle East woke up to a world that promised change. Or was it?

Call it collective sigh of relief, a sense of inevitability or Trump’s global assertion of his presidency, a common response seems to be emerging from beneath the rubble – at least something has been done about it. It remains to be seen whether that something corrects the wrongs of the past, does justice to the victims, brings a new dispensation or marks a new beginning.

The world has lived through war fatigue that conflicts in the Middle East have brought about. A sense of submission has set in and we grow in and out of familiar cynicism that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

There also isn’t a war crime that hasn’t been committed in this part of the world in recent years. Reports of torture, extra-judicial killing and ethnic cleansing have been accepted as almost inevitable outcomes while terror provides the daily dose to keep the embers alive.

Trump’s decision to get militarily involved in Syria will achieve nothing if it isn’t followed by a political process. Such a process can only be put into place if we are clear about its end objectives

Ehtesham Shahid

Crossing the threshold

If Khan Sheikhoun was the trigger for this latest US assault then other chemical attacks, in the same country and elsewhere in the neighborhood have, been either conveniently forgotten or helplessly ignored.

Unfortunately, when misery becomes the norm no human resistance to an appalling crime appears to make sense. The emotions have run high in this part of the world but they have also been too easily overcome, and have hardly led to peace.

There is no denying the fact that, despite the fatigue and the sense of resignation, stakes continue to remain high in Syria. The country is still at the center of a geo-strategic shift shaping the Middle East and beyond. It will continue to be the battleground for intransigent militias, warring opposition factions, and free-flowing terror modules.

It will also continue to divide powerful members of the Security Council for reasons beyond Syria.

Where do we go from here?

The moot point is whether this is going to be another shoot-and-scoot method that the Americans have been applying far too often in conflict zones around the world. If that’s the case, then it will probably end up galvanizing the opposition and may even invoke a more horrible face of the regime.

Trump’s rather courageous decision to get militarily involved in Syria will achieve nothing if it isn’t followed by a political process. Such a process can only be put into place if the stakeholders are clear about its end objectives.

Two diametrically opposite scenarios are quickly taking shape – Syria with or without Assad. The latter looks more and more likely. It is difficult to imagine the Americans getting into this only to target an airbase and not taking things to a logical conclusion.

But if they indeed continue till Assad is removed from power, then they will have to look at not repeating the mistake of getting rid of a dictator and doing little thereafter. It has happened in the past, leading to dire consequences, and the world probably cant afford more of the same.

It is obvious that the world wasn’t waiting for just an air strike on the Assad bastion. It wants an end to this horrendous crime against humanity that has gone on in Syria for too long. The strikes that were carried out this morning will be justified only if we achieve this objective.

Ehtesham Shahid is Managing Editor at Al Arabiya English. For close to two decades he has worked as editor, correspondent, and business writer for leading publications, news wires and research organizations in India and the Gulf region. He loves to occasionally dabble with teaching and is collecting material for a book on unique tales of rural conflict and transformation from around the world. His twitter handle is @e2sham.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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