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The coalition struck Syria – what next?

SYRIA (OBSERVATORY) – The blows of the Western coalition led by the United States in Syria raise several questions.

First, what exactly is the US strategy in Syria? Just two weeks ago, speaking in Ohio, US President Donald Trump said that the US “will very soon leave Syria.” Now Trump actually led a large-scale bombing operation against several Syrian cities, including the capital of Damascus.

What is the strategy of the Trump administration in Syria? Does she assume Bashar al-Assad’s departure from power, which the Obama administration insisted from the very beginning of the Syrian civil war? Or is there simply a kind of red line in the sense of Assad’s use of chemical weapons and nothing more?

The answer remains a mystery. When on Friday President Trump announced about the attacks of the Western coalition on Syria, he focused on the second, but earlier this week the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley stated that if Assad remains in power, no political settlement in Syria can not be counted.

Second, in addition to responding to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, does the Trump administration have any plan to protect Syrian civilians in a war that, in the last seven years, destroyed most of their country?

Almost half a million Syrians have already died in this war, and the number of victims of chemical weapons is only a tiny fraction of the total losses. During the campaign period, Trump candidate several times expressed the idea of ​​creating “safe zones” for the Syrian civilian population.

Will the creation of such zones become the next step of the Trump administration? And what will they look like? Such safe zones will require the creation of no-fly zones, because until now the Syrian Air Force enjoyed an absolute advantage in the air, which allowed them to freely drop barrels, chemical weapons and other shells. Ensuring such a no-fly zone is also hindered by the fact that many Russian military aircraft fly over Syria.

Thirdly, can Trump’s quite commendable concern for the lives of civilians caused by the use of chemical weapons there change his attitude towards Syrian refugees trying to enter the US territory? To date, the Trump administration has actually banned the entry of Syrian refugees into the United States, despite the fact that most of them are women and children.

Fourthly, do these blows mean any turning point in the relationship between Trump and Russia? The president of the United States for a long time showed reluctance to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, but on Friday he issued extremely harsh rhetoric about the Russians: “I ask Russia: what country wants to be associated with the massacre of innocent men, women and children?”

Fifth, when US Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke at a Pentagon press conference on Friday, April 13, he said that, in accordance with Article 2 of the US Constitution, the president as commander-in-chief has the right to allow strikes. Many legal experts and members of Congress will not agree with this. The US Congress, which should give its consent to US military operations, did not allow strikes against Syrian targets, but allowed to strike only at terrorist targets.

Sixthly, is not it all like the situation when the “tail wags the dog”? Such an accusation – borrowed from the title of one popular film – was addressed to Bill Clinton, who at the height of the scandal with Monica Lewinsky ordered to strike at training camps of al-Qaeda (banned in Russia, ed.) In Afghanistan in August 1998 after how the militants of this terrorist organization staged explosions in two US embassies in Africa.

As Mark Twain once said, “history does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.”