After Syria strikes, now what?

The US-led military strikes in Syria raise a number of questions:First, and most basic, what exactly is US pol...

Posted: Apr 15, 2018 10:12 AM
Updated: Apr 15, 2018 10:12 AM

The US-led military strikes in Syria raise a number of questions:

First, and most basic, what exactly is US policy in Syria? President Donald Trump said just two weeks ago in a speech in Ohio that the US would "be coming out of Syria like very soon." Now, Trump has presided over a large-scale bombing operation aimed at three chemical weapons production and storage targets in Syria, including in Damascus, the Syrian capital.

So what is the Trump administration policy? Is it that Syrian leader Bashar al Assad must go, which has been the stated policy of the United States going back to the early days of the Syrian civil war under President Barack Obama? Or is there simply just a red line on Assad's use of chemical weapons, but not much more?

The answer is far from clear. When President Trump announced the US-led strikes on Friday he emphasized the latter, while his own ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said earlier this week that there is no political solution in Syria with Assad still in power.

Second, beyond responding to the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons, does the Trump administration have a plan to protect Syrian civilians in the war that has destroyed much of their country over the past seven years?

Nearly half a million Syrians have died in the war, of which chemical weapons have only killed a tiny fraction. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump sometimes raised the idea of creating "safe zones" for Syrian civilians.

Is the next step for the Trump administration the creation of such zones? And how would these work? Such safe zones would require "no fly zones" because the Syrian air force has hitherto enjoyed total air superiority allowing them to drop chemical weapons, "barrel bombs" and other munitions more or less at will. Enforcing such a no fly zone is complicated by the fact that there are considerable numbers of Russian aircraft flying over Syria.

Friday's strikes by American, British and French missiles evaded Syria's sophisticated air defenses and they also encountered no Russian interference with the operation. Does this open the door for a more proactive effort by the US-led coalition to protect Syrian civilians from the Assad regime? Hitherto objections to such an effort have generally centered on the sophistication of Syrian air defenses and not wanting to create a deeper conflict with the Russians.

Third, might Trump's laudable concern about civilian casualties caused by chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war change his view about Syrian refugees entering the United States? Right now the Trump administration has effectively banned the entry of Syrian refugees into the US, despite the fact that most are women and children.

Fourth, do the strikes mark some kind of turning point between Trump and Russia? The President had been loathe to critique Russia President Vladimir Putin, yet on Friday he had harsh words for the Russians, saying: "To Russia, I ask: What kind of a nation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men, women, and children?"

Fifth, when US Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke at a press conference at the Pentagon on Friday night he said the legal authorization for the strikes was under the president's Article 2 authority in the Constitution as commander in chief. Many legal experts -- as well as a number of members of Congress -- would beg to differ. Attacking Syrian regime targets, as opposed to ISIS targets has not been authorized by Congress which is supposed to sanction US military actions, although recent presidents have tended to minimize the role of Congress in such matters.

Sixth, is there a bit of "Wag the Dog" to all this? This was the accusation, adapted from the title of a popular movie, against President Bill Clinton who, in the midst of the Monica Lewinsky affair, launched military strikes against al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan in August 1998 following al Qaeda's bombing of two US embassies in Africa.

As Mark Twain is supposed to have observed, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 265146

Reported Deaths: 5777
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17741191
Hinds16891332
Harrison14279204
Rankin11239220
Jackson10917190
Lee9071145
Madison8599169
Jones6731118
Forrest6208124
Lauderdale6121192
Lowndes5544120
Lafayette520598
Lamar505865
Washington4933125
Bolivar4126109
Oktibbeha408382
Panola386981
Pontotoc377460
Monroe3686110
Warren3685103
Marshall357170
Union356864
Pearl River3495106
Neshoba3490154
Leflore3118109
Lincoln306788
Hancock294262
Sunflower291975
Tate280662
Alcorn273154
Pike270181
Itawamba269363
Scott260048
Yazoo256756
Prentiss253754
Coahoma249755
Copiah249749
Tippah249750
Simpson242872
Leake238167
Marion224273
Grenada223972
Covington221073
Adams215171
Wayne213734
Winston207671
George204739
Newton199946
Attala197064
Tishomingo194961
Chickasaw189344
Jasper181138
Holmes172068
Clay166837
Tallahatchie157235
Stone152525
Clarke148162
Calhoun141322
Smith130026
Yalobusha123335
Walthall114537
Greene113729
Noxubee113026
Montgomery112036
Carroll106822
Lawrence106817
Perry105131
Amite102126
Webster96824
Tunica89021
Claiborne88825
Jefferson Davis88430
Benton85823
Humphreys84724
Kemper80920
Quitman7139
Franklin70617
Choctaw63713
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45217
Issaquena1606
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 441170

Reported Deaths: 6660
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson646811007
Mobile31620572
Madison28310217
Tuscaloosa21525275
Montgomery19954332
Shelby19335132
Baldwin17256189
Lee13205107
Morgan12639142
Etowah12107181
Calhoun11521206
Marshall10471123
Houston9009164
Limestone834981
Cullman8274124
Elmore8214110
DeKalb7894107
Lauderdale7871107
St. Clair7854130
Talladega6481112
Walker6036183
Jackson601545
Colbert549994
Blount547386
Autauga537662
Coffee462464
Dale410785
Franklin374950
Russell357515
Chilton345473
Covington339680
Escambia335444
Tallapoosa3149109
Dallas313296
Chambers304270
Clarke300236
Pike262531
Lawrence254155
Marion253761
Winston233642
Bibb222348
Geneva211547
Marengo209331
Pickens199631
Hale185244
Barbour182738
Fayette178629
Butler174460
Cherokee165731
Henry159925
Monroe152421
Randolph146436
Washington142327
Clay130546
Crenshaw124045
Macon122337
Cleburne121825
Lamar120222
Lowndes115536
Wilcox107922
Bullock103528
Perry100018
Conecuh97922
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63618
Choctaw51924
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