On Sept. 3, Israel carried out the launch of two ballistic missiles in the direction of the Syrian Arab Republic. They were launched to test the combat readiness of Israel’s air defenses to repel a possible missile attack by Syria in retaliation for any aerial aggression against Syria by Washington, which was explicitly threatened by Obama in his speech on Sept. 1 of this year.
And regardless of what was said in Tel Aviv and Washington, even a non-military person can understand why it was done. After all, Syria has no cruise missiles and is armed only with outdated Scud-type ballistic missiles. It was done namely to demonstrate Israel’s willingness to take part in Washington’s military action against Damascus. So one non-Arab and non-Islamic ally was found at a time when NATO is turning away from the situation.
During 1991 in Iraq, several dozen Scud launches were aimed at Israel and the American Patriot air defense system was completely ineffective. Just one Iraqi missile was shot down, and only when it had almost reached the surface; its debris did more damage than it would have if the missile had hit the ground itself in a relatively deserted spot. Of course, the Patriots are no longer the same and they have long been modernized. But on the other hand, the distance from the Syrian launchers to Israeli cities is five times less than that from the Iraqi border. The question arises – why did the test take place? After all, the Russian and Syrian radars are able to pinpoint these ballistic missile launches, which they did. The answer is clear – Washington is flexing its muscles after Obama’s rather feeble and ineloquent speech on Sept. 1, stating only contempt for international law and U.S. allies, as well as repeating a threadbare thesis on the unproven use by Assad of chemical weapons against militants and civilians on Aug. 21 of this year, for which the U.S. should “punish” him.
And what form should the punishment take? After all, the Americans will not hit Assad, but could kill a few dozen or several hundred innocent Syrians. And this already happened in Iraq in 1996 and 1998. What’s more, these launches are a demonstration by the United States to its allies of Washington’s determination to strike, despite the postponement of the military operation. It is an attempt once again to intimidate Damascus and demonstrate to Russia’s friends that Russia would not come to the military aid of Syria, even in the case of blatant aerial aggression against a sovereign state – a member of the United Nations. The American President is well aware that nothing – besides high-profile protests in many countries of the world – will take place. There will be no real answer to his thuggery, or more exactly – crime. After all, no one will engage in a military conflict with the United States because of Syria by sending air defenses to help Damascus repel this act of air piracy. And they definitely will take place, whatever the results of a vote in Congress. Otherwise, Obama will need to admit to the world that he is full of hot air and not the leader of a world power. The American president has made too many threatening statements, he is too committed to the war. And Wahhabi regimes of Saudi Arabia and Qatar are pressuring him, and Turkey is spoiling for a fight, as Erdogan needs to score some points after the events of Taksim Square. Otherwise, he may lose the March elections.
Although, of course, Obama would have proven to be a much stronger and wiser world leader if he did not strike Syria. Power does not derive from shooting the most modern and high-tech weapons at a much weaker opponent at point blank range, but stopping the bloodshed in Syria, forcing criminals and extremists – the so-called Syrian opposition – to sit down at the negotiating table. And then he would confirm his reputation as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. As it is, he will have to go down in history as just another president of the United States – a warmonger and hawk. How would he be better than Bush – Senior or Junior – who unleashed the war in Iraq, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs? That’s right – no better. And the Democratic Party that he heads would be no better than the Republicans, who have always backed the most harsh military methods of solving conflicts. In general, he is weak and a weakling. Obama will not be able to go down in history as the first U.S. president-peacemaker.
What are the targets that the United States is going to strike? As we learned from confidential sources, cruise missiles will have to strike Syria’s General Staff of Armed Forces, the headquarters of its intelligence services, the headquarters of the base compounds of the Syrian troops who are successfully suppressing the rebellions that are being paid for by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, military airports, the main air defence units, communications, and military industrial sector objects, with the exception of chemical plants, so as not to cause a mass poisoning of the population. At present, the American, British, French, Saudi, Qatari, Turkish and Jordanian intelligence services are intensely searching for places where President Assad could be hiding, to destroy him with missile strikes, if possible. During the five major U.S. missile strikes on Iraq – during the Gulf War in 1991, in 1992, 1996 and 1998, and during the last aggression against Baghdad in 2003 – Saddam’s number never came up. And it will probably not happen with Assad either – unless there is a traitor in his inner circle.
What will be the point to these attacks, which will require 200 to 300 Tomahawks? Absolutely nothing, if we talk about the balance of power between the government forces and the rebels. Several dozen Syrian soldiers and officers will die, several hundred civilians, but the advantage will remain on the side of Damascus. In military terms, these attacks are more of a loud bang. There are important political overtones – I promised to strike, and did strike, punishing Assad, Obama can publicly declare, as did Clinton in December 1998, saying that the military operation’s goals have been achieved. And then what? Without a ground operation by foreign troops and the introduction of no-fly zones, Syria cannot be beaten. But now Iran and Hezbollah will have all their cards in order to begin to provide massive military assistance to Syria, including ground forces. After all, the country will be subjected to aggression without UN authorization, and in this case, each UN member state should protect the victim of aggression. And Russia will have a free hand in terms of supplying Damascus with state-of-the-art weapons, including S-300 and the latest modification combat aircraft and helicopters. Its military advisors can be sent to Syria to train its army as soon as possible in the use of these weapons.
But after the American aggression, no one will sit down at the negotiating table with the rebels. Washington will have crossed the red line beyond which there is no point of return to a peaceful settlement. After this, even Russia cannot convince Syria to return to the path of a peaceful solution. Syrians have their own national pride. And the United States will have to be prepared for terrorist acts being carried out in its territory or against U.S. diplomatic missions abroad. And it won’t be Damascus that’s behind them, but thousands of Arabs and Muslims around the world, who already hate Washington for its impudence in dealing with the Islamic world. Many are sympathetic to Syria and for them it is a matter of honour to avenge U.S. aggression. But Obama, apparently, does not care. Or he does not understand. The main thing for him is to save his reputation as a world leader, even if up to his elbows in blood. And not the fact that he will have to pay for this with the security of the country and its citizens.
The decline of the American Empire is already coming in the Middle East. It will be followed by its withdrawal from Asia and probably even from Europe. And in Latin America, Washington has long been ousted by Hugo Chavez. Refined European leaders do not want to associate themselves with murderers and rapists. Otherwise, what respect is there for human rights? After all, deliberate murder is murder, no matter what political ranting is used to covere it up. And that’s even if the killer is not a maniac, but the head of a respected (for now, at least) state, which claims to be the leader of the civilized world. Although for civilized Obama, apparently, as in the 19th century, to kill “an Arab barbarian” is a sacred thing in the name of saving the West. But then how does he differ from a typical colonizer in a pith helmet, bludgeoning to death black slaves on the plantations? Apparently, only by his dark skin. Then this is quite shameful! Such a betrayal of the ideas of Martin Luther King Jr., loyalty to which Obama keeps confirming, will not be forgiven by black U.S. voters, on whose support the strength of the Democratic Party is largely based. Not to mention all those billions of people who have not forgotten colonialism and oppression by the West. Obama will thus undermine the trust of more than a hundred countries worldwide to the ideas of European democracy and the civilized values associated with it.
Petr Lvov, doctor of political science, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.