With so many world leaders currently being blokes with massive egos and quite possibly small appendages, it was only a matter of time before a major conflict broke out. Messrs Trump, Putin and Jong-Un, amongst others, simply cannot be left to play nicely together.
I am a pacifist, by all accounts, and don’t believe that a violent resolution is ever a necessary one that brings about a happy ending.
But the barbarity of General Assad’s alleged chemical attack on his own people in Damascus cannot go unnoticed, and while it seems strange for me to do so I have to agree with Donald Trump on this one: action must be taken to stop innocent people in Syria being harmed by this despotic leader. The images of babies and children with gas masks on their faces and being hosed down to remove whatever chemicals had been used in the supposed attack will not be forgotten in a hurry.
While action must be taken, there is the very real threat of this situation escalating out of all proportion. Syria has allies in Russia and North Korea, and already threats of war have been made should the US – with support from the UK and France – launch air strikes on Assad’s forces.
To call it a ‘delicate’ political situation is something of an understatement.
How Did This All Kick Off?
Bashar al-Assad is the Syrian president, and somebody that the western world has accused of perpetrating war crimes against his own people in the past. He allegedly ordered attacks on Arab Spring protestors, and civil war has raged in the country for the past seven years.
The latest alleged attack is the latest barbaric act from a president with seemingly no interest in opening the door to discussion with his opposition. He is supported by Russia, who have coordinated air strikes on rebel outposts, and North Korea, who have reportedly aided Assad in manufacturing ballistic missiles and enhancing their chemical weapons cache.
The western world was horrified by the footage of the latest attack on rebels, which has naturally harmed ordinary civilians, with Donald Trump and Theresa May confirming that the attacks ‘cannot go unchallenged.
What Happens Next?
The key in the first instance is for investigators to find evidence that General Assad used chemical weaponry on his own people. At the time of writing, the US defence secretary, James Mattis, had said that his team were still looking for irrefutable evidence of the president’s input.
Bizarrely, the French prime minister, Emmanuel Macron, has since come out and suggested that he has evidence linking Assad to the attack. If confirmed correct, the next likely step is military intervention.
In April 2017 the US launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at an airbase in Shayrat in retaliation for a similar attack, and it is believed that they are readying a similar scale onslaught in the coming days if Russia does not pressure Assad into resigning.
The official line from 10 Downing Street followed a lengthy phone conversation between the prime minister and Trump. “The prime minister spoke to President Trump about Syria this evening. They agreed that the Assad regime had established a pattern of dangerous behaviour in relation to the use of chemical weapons,” they said.
“They agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. They agreed to keep working closely together on the international response.”
So Are We Heading for World War 3?
Before you head out to the garden shed armed with tins of peaches and a blanket, it is unlikely that this conflict will unravel into full-scale war.
Even maniacal world leaders appreciate the need for calm in such times, and the ‘peacocking’ responses of Trump, Putin et al are likely to be nothing more than lip service.
The US has long been waging war with Syria dating back to Obama’s tenure, and so the actions of their armed forces are nothing new to Assad and his cronies.
It is, however, a tightrope. Should US missiles stray too close to Assad’s presidential quarters in Syria, all hell could break loose.
Senior military figures in Russia have confirmed that US missiles will be shot down and launch sites targeted if any Russian personnel are harmed. Vladimir Putin has said that ‘we will keep all our international obligations in full,’ which is believed to be his way of throwing support behind the treaty of friendship that his country and Syria share.
These are worrying times, and Donald Trump armed with Twitter and the famed ‘red button’ is a concern; particularly as you can make a declaration of war in 140 characters or less.
Hopefully common sense will prevail, and a non-violent yet robust action plan can be drawn up to oust the despicable Assad from his position.