24 July 2019
No matter how many chemical facilities the US says were destroyed by its missiles, the fact remains that nothing has changed at all in Syria as far as the civil war is concerned. Photo: Reuters
No matter how many chemical facilities the US says were destroyed by its missiles, the fact remains that nothing has changed at all in Syria as far as the civil war is concerned. Photo: Reuters

Why US-led airstrike on Syria was just a waste of ammunition

Despite the US-led airstrikes against Syria last weekend, it has been pretty much business as usual across the country afterwards, according to a report by The Guardian.

When cruise missiles started hitting Damascus at 4am on Saturday, the local residents were either still sleeping or watching and getting amused by the missiles and warplanes as if it was a fireworks show, the report noted.

The reason why the local residents remained so composed in face of the relentless fire power of the West is because most of them have already got so used to gun fire after seven years of civil war.

Also, the West had announced beforehand that the airstrikes would only target military and scientific research facilities that are substantially far away from downtown Damascus, which explains why no Syrian civilian was running for his life during the attacks.

The following day, the Syrians just carried on with their lives as usual, and President Bashar al-Assad’s grip on power remains unchallenged.

As far as the members of the Syrian opposition are concerned, they told western reporters that they were disappointed at the airstrikes, which they referred to as a “farce”. As they mockingly put it, “If you are really determined to kill someone, would you warn that person beforehand?”

And they seem to have a point there. At first glance, the airstrikes launched by the US, Britain and France over the past weekend appeared ferocious, as over a hundred Tomahawk cruise missiles were fired. However, the fact is, it remains highly doubtful whether the attacks achieved any tangible result at all.

It is because while the US claimed that all the cruise missiles had hit the three chosen targets, including a scientific research center on the outskirts of Damascus and a chemical weapon storage facility west of the city of Homs, the Syrian military refuted the claims and boasted that most of the incoming missiles had been successfully intercepted by its surface-to-air weapon systems.

More importantly, one thing is very clear: nobody was killed in this seemingly fearsome airstrike, which had only left a few injured on the ground.

In our opinion, what we can tell from this high-profile yet zero-effect military bluff mounted by the US and its allies against the Assad regime is that the US has basically no intention whatsoever to go head to head with Russia over Syria.

Just look at the fact that before the attack, the West had allowed the Syrian government 2 days to evacuate the targeted facilities and move warplanes as well as equipment to other locations that were covered by the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile sites, and one can easily tell that the entire military operation was nothing more than a gesture.

Besides, no Russian military facility was hit during the whole attack.

After the airstrikes, US President Donald Trump proudly declared “mission accomplished”, while Defense Secretary James Mattis stated clearly that the US-led attacks were only intended as a “one-time shot”, so long as Assad doesn’t use chemical weapons against civilians again.

In other words, the attack was only an one-off mission and the US has no intention to follow through after that, at least for now.

That means no matter how many chemical facilities the US claimed were destroyed by its missiles, nothing has changed at all as far as the ongoing Syrian civil war is concerned.

Nor would President Assad’s dictatorship be challenged as long as he doesn’t order another chemical attack against his own people in the days ahead.

Apparently, the US-led attack against Syria was just a repeat of a similar airstrike which Washington launched in April last year, with both being a “one-time shot” that would absolutely change nothing.

The half-hearted and hypocritical approach adopted by the western allies in dealing with the Assad regime can perhaps explain why German Chancellor Angela Merkel has remained on the sidelines and chosen not to take part in the airstrikes.

It is because, for one, she could have risked fueling the anti-war sentiment in her country if she had participated in the attacks. Also, she is probably well aware right from the beginning that such military operations just wouldn’t make any difference.

As such, in our view, while Trump has referred to the airstrike against Syria as a “perfectly executed” military operation, we would say that the attack was nothing but sheer waste of ammunition.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 16

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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