U.S. Air Strikes in Syria Spark International Concern

By, Cecilia de Almeida CAS ’19

Throughout the campaign process as well as the first six months in Washington, the Trump administration made it clear from day one that one of its primary focuses would be taking a more active role regarding the conflicts in Syria. Differing from the Obama Administration, Trump has consistently emphasized the need for American armies in Syria to help the rebel efforts. Furthermore, he advocated for greater use of hostile negotiating tactics as opposed to Obama’s advocation for diplomacy. Last week, Americans witnessed this new approach. Following a suspected chemical attack by the Syrian government, President Trump ordered missile strikes against Syria for the first time since the civil war began while he had dinner with Xi Jinping in South Florida, “Donald Trump ordered the attacks on Thursday afternoon, and the strikes took place at about 7:40 PM local time”[1}. Trump told the American people “it is in their vital national security interest to prevent and deter the spread and the use of deadly chemical weapons”[2]. Furthermore,  “The Pentagon said 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from warships USS Ross and USS Porter in the eastern Mediterranean in the early hours of Friday morning”[3]. They targeted the Shayrat airbase near Homs, which the U.S. claimed was the location from which the Syrian forces launched the chemical attack on the rebel-held town.

This decision carried serious international repercussions, mainly by heightening the tensions between the United States, Russia and their respective allies. Even though “the Pentagon alerted Russian military counterparts to minimize the risk of conflict”[4] that had little effects on the policy measures that are going to be pursued by the Russian government. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stressed that “an attack on a country whose government is fighting terrorism only plays into the hands of extremists and creates additional threats to regional and global security”[5].  The Russian Defense Ministry said it plans to increase the effectiveness of the air defense system in Syria to prevent incidents like these from happening again. The President of Iran had similar reactions by calling for “impartial countries to form a fact-finding commission to find out about and through which border chemical weapons entered Syria”[6]. Both Russia and Iran’s UN representatives have come out expressing how the U.S. actions against a sovereign nation “violated international law and called for an objective, unbiased investigation of all circumstances”[7].

        Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Lavrov this week. Tillerson reiterated that this does not signify a change in U.S. policy concerning Syria, but was a tactic used to curb the use of chemical weapons in the region. Additionally, he stated that Russia’s reaction shows “the continued support for a regime that ‘carries out these types of horrendous attacks on their own people’”[8]. The long-term diplomatic implications for both the West and East remain unknown.

[1] Khomami, Nadia, and Jamie Grierson. “US Military Strikes on Syria: What We Know so Far.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[2] Phipps, Claire, and Spencer Ackerman. “Syria: US Launches 60 Missiles in Strike on Airbase near Homs – live.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[3] Khomami, Nadia, and Jamie Grierson. “US Military Strikes on Syria: What We Know so Far.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 07 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[4] Phipps, Claire, and Spencer Ackerman. “Syria: US Launches 60 Missiles in Strike on Airbase near Homs – live.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[5] Scott, Felix Kerner and Eugene. “Tillerson, Russia’s Foreign Minister Discuss Syria Strike.” CNN. Cable News Network, 08 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[6] Scott, Felix Kerner and Eugene. “Tillerson, Russia’s Foreign Minister Discuss Syria Strike.” CNN. Cable News Network, 08 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[7] Diaz, Daniella. “Haley on Russia and Iran: ‘I Don’t Think Anything Is off the Table’.” CNN. Cable News Network, 09 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

[8] Phipps, Claire, and Spencer Ackerman. “Syria: US Launches 60 Missiles in Strike on Airbase near Homs – live.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.

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