The Whats and Ifs of US-led military strikes on Syria!

The United States of America is considering a military strike on Syria as a response to the chemical attack by the Syrian government on the city of Douma which has reportedly left many dead and many more injured. President Donald Trump is in talks with his European allies and is said to plan a major and a much bigger strike than the one happened in 2017. The airstrikes will be targeted on specific facilities and are not meant to tamper with the ongoing civil war and its frontlines. President Trump has stated that there will be a missile attack, however, there is no timeline attached to it. It is supposed and even stated by many European allies that the attacks will not target either the Syrian government or its allies in the area.

The Chemical Attack

It is stated that the main aim of the whole operation will be deterrence of any further use of banned weapons in warfare. The recent developments have come after it was widely reported in media that the city of Douma in the Eastern Ghouta suburb surrounding Damascus has been attacked with chemical weapons possibly weaponized chlorine and sarin gas. Many civilians were killed as a result and many others showed horrible signs of choking, etc. Many children were shown fighting the effects of the attack on multiple media channels. The reports have been completely rubbished by both Russia and Syria which state that they are bogus and the whole issue is being fabricated by the rebels and other rescue workers.  A punitive military strike in 2017 by the United States was undertaken to deter the use of chemical weapons in warfare, an aim which was only temporarily attained.

Considerations

The United States is now planning for a major operation which will be aimed at completely dismantling the ability of the Syrian government to carry on a chemical attack. Last year the US alone had launched a cruise missile attack in response to the use of Sarin gas by the Syrian regime on the town of Khan Shaykhun. The missiles were destroyed Shayrat airbase of Syria- the alleged base point for the attack.  Unlike latter, a much wider operation is on the cards as it will involve French and British forces and will thus span multiple strikes lasting a longer time. It will not be surprising to see the Gulf states like Saudi Arabia, UAE in facilitation capacity. A remote possibility of the involvement of the Arab nations in a military capacity cannot be completely over-ruled. The only feature which remains same is the constraints which the US faced in 2017 and now.

Thus it is widely clear that the operation will be bigger as has been also stated by Macron that France will strike chemical facilities in Syria. The air-bases surrounding Damascus including Dumeir,  Mezzeh, Marj Ruhayyil will be the potential targets as they have played a significant role in the Syrian operation on Eastern Ghouta.

The large-scale attack will necessitate the involvement of additional Middle-East deployment of US and allied forces. The US base at Al Udeid in Qatar and the British bases at Cyprus are the biggest in the region and will be highly instrumental in the attack against Syria. However, it will be the scale of the attack which will call for securing more attack routes via Turkey, Iraq and even Jordan. An air passage through Iraq is quite unlikely due to its ties with Iran. In addition, US deployment in the region will need more aircraft carriers. It is reported that USS Harry S. Truman along with its supporting fleet and USS Theodore Roosevelt will be redeployed. Former is soon supposed to touch the Mediterranean waters.

Risks

The targets defined by the US will also be limited due to an increased Russian presence in the country. Russian forces are mainly centred in Tartous, Damascus and Latakia. US will have to calculate the risks to both permanent Russian military and the private contractors as Russia has already stated a retaliation in face of a US attack which will only be aggravated by the Russian casualties. Contrastingly the fall-out of a strike on Iranian forces is relatively less as there was no retaliation from Iran after an Israeli strike on the T4 airbase in Syria killing many Iranians.

The US is also pursuing diplomatic options as it has called the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to conduct an investigation into the chemical attack. OPCW team is already on way to Damascus. It is not certain that the US will wait for the report to carry out strikes.

The whole operation is mired in great risks ranging from loss of strategic warfare infrastructure, personnel to a wide-ranging direct confrontation with Russia. Even limited strikes will have much larger ramifications for US operations in Syria. The complicated nature of the conflict has many loose ends which can lead to miscalculations and thus trigger the unprecedented escalation.

Thus, Syria is not easy, nor for the US neither for Russia.

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