Is the world inhaling Sarin, too? The international stance on Douma

Ali Al-Amin
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The missiles which targeted the Syrian military T4 air base in Homs on Monday at dawn are Israeli and not American, and they did not come in response to the Syrian regime’s chemical attack on Douma in Ghouta. The Syrian regime, which has used Sarin gas before according to local and international reports, seems reassured that American and international objections to using these weapons will not go as far as adopting deterrent military measures. This is what developments since 2012 have shown as, in the best case scenario, reactions have been restricted to limited military strikes against some Syrian posts and to condemnations.

The word “animal” which US President Donald Trump used to describe Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is the best thing the Syrian regime can expect from the American stance. There are American hints that Washington may take military measures in response to the recent use of chemical weapons; however, amid the US orientations to withdraw from Syria, as Trump announced, no observers expect the US to take any measures to deter the Syrian regime and its allies in Syria.

The Israeli airstrike on the T4 airbase is a development that falls within another context that has nothing to do with what’s happening in Douma. The Syrian army has posts in this airport and many reports confirm that Iran uses it as a base to launch missiles and drones. Meanwhile, Syrian activists confirmed that Israeli jets were seen launching a number of missiles from Lebanese airspace and Syrian official reports said a number of Syrian army personnel were killed and injured in the strike.

The American stance sets withdrawing from Syria as a strategy while leaving countries that are militarily present in Syria with the task of finding solutions - especially that Trump has asserted that America’s task ends with eliminating ISIS from Syria. Although some US administration officials have questioned this withdrawal, it seems what’s constant here is the lack of a US strategy that exerts pressure to impose solutions or curb Russia’s and Iran’s military roles in Syria. Battles in eastern Ghouta and the destruction there show that the US stance does not seem concerned in confronting this bloody and military role and does not believe its interests are threatened if the Syrian regime restores whatever is left of opposition-held areas in Damascus’ surroundings.

Based on this American stance, it seems developments in Syria will further escalate towards allowing the regime and its international ally to crush the Syrian opposition. It does not seem there is anything to prevent this especially in areas within the control of the regime and its Russian and Iranian allies. All that Washington may do is adopt a formal military response to the regime’s use of chemical weapons. The ongoing battles in eastern Ghouta and the crimes committed against civilians did not bring about any change in American and international behavior. All which upset the American administration is the use of the internationally prohibited weapons. The reaction will thus be nothing more than a limited military objection that falls within the context of taking a stance that is mainly based on international and not Syrian calculations.

Russia’s veto at the UN Security Council has so far prevented issuing any international resolution that can curb the Syrian regime from committing crimes. This, to a large extent, confirms that Russia and Iran are directly concerned in the measures which the Assad regime carries out while, at the same time, they are well-aware of the limits of US interests which they avoid coming near. This was evident when few months ago they approached areas east of the Euphrates. The US’ reaction was violent as in one night it killed hundreds of Russian soldiers. Few weeks before this, it killed dozens of Iranian and Iraqi militiamen when they tried to approach areas of American influence in this area.

State of surrender

What’s tragic in this Syrian scene is Arab absence as while using chemical weapons has stirred international controversy, there’s an Arab silence that reflects a state of surrender or helplessness, if not complicity, especially as Syria witnesses systematic destruction of economic and urban structure and, more importantly, demographic change that’s no longer a secret. Meanwhile, the features of Iranian and Israeli influence are being accurately drawn under Russian supervision. Perhaps the recent Israeli strikes against the airport in Homs’ countryside shows, to a large extent, the concerns which go beyond humanitarian and political considerations related to the Syrian people.

In brief, the American and international stance indicate that Syrian political, military and humanitarian developments in Damascus’ surroundings will not provoke Washington no matter how loud Trump is against the crimes of Assad and his allies, and the UN Security Council will be incapable of adopting any stance which Russia does not accept – knowing that any military development that results from America’s intervention is not in Washington’s calculations and European countries do not desire this either. This is in addition to the fact that Israel which seems reassured to Russia, in terms of stability of Syrian-Israeli borders and to stability along the borders with Lebanon, does not want to risk this stability. It’s worth noting that Syrian developments allowed it to carry out military strikes against what it views as threats to its security in Syria without provoking Russia or Syria or triggering either to react.

Although an Israeli jet was downed by Syria few months ago, it seems Israel is not restrained when responding to what it believes is a threat to its security in Syria. Meanwhile, other parties seem largely committed to the conditions of Israeli security. This is all according to the facts on the ground as they’ve clearly shown that the international community will remain helpless or a mere spectator as Assad and his allies massacre civilians but will be decisive and strong when things are related to Israel’s security or Washington’s zones of influence in North or South Syria.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Ali Al-Amin is a journalist based in Lebanon and is the Editor of news site

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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