American response to the catastrophic humanitarian crisis Syria has been experiencing for the last seven years has been tepid, at best. With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s most recent chemical attack on the Syrian people, inaction is no longer an option.
While President Trump would like to lay blame for the ongoing atrocities being committed by the Assad government at former President Barack Obama’s doorstep, it’s time he recognizes that the failings of his predecessor are no excuse for his own inability to act decisively.
The president has tweeted that he will strongly respond to Assad’s latest act of aggression. His actions may be short-term, at best. If his intention is merely to send a half-baked message by way of a showy, but ineffective, use of “nice, new, smart” missiles, it’s doubtful that the outcome will be any more successful than last year’s Tomahawk missile strike.
President Trump must cast aside his personal fears and frustrations and take on Vladimir Putin directly. More than the Iranians, who have their own vested interests in propping Assad up, Vladimir Putin is responsible for the regime’s maintaining control of Syria. His ongoing support is a destabilizing factor in the region.
Putin must be made to understand that Assad’s control of the Syrian government will no longer be tolerated. His ongoing denials that Assad used chemical warfare against his own people are outright lies. We expect those from Putin. Then again, the Russian president also denies using chemical warfare and murder against his own foes. The ongoing investigation of his attempted murder of a former Russian spy on British soil indicates that, too, is a lie.
Ultimately, it is Putin’s responsibility to convince Assad to peacefully vacate his office and leave the country. If he cannot, he and the Russian government need to be held accountable.
Ending Assad’s reign of terror is in everyone’s best interests. If Mr. Putin refuses to listen to reason and is unwilling to aid in extricating the Syrian president and stabilizing the country, President Trump could exercise other options.
Isolating Syria by way of a naval blockade would be a highly effective, yet relatively benign option. Rendering all Syrian air facilities – military and commercial – totally unusable is one that is not so benign. Pre-emptive strikes on suspected weapons caches and military facilities could be launched. Another destabilizing move might include destruction of Assad’s means of command and control of Syrian forces.
Should Putin ignore the world community and maintain his stubborn, unreasonable position, further isolation and more potent economic sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs must be put into place. A more hardened economic stand against Iran must be taken as well, as Syria is also acting as the Iranian government’s proxy in the region.
Lastly, the prospect of direct military action against President Assad and his cronies should not be ruled out, although employing such tactics would require international and congressional support.
The world community needs to determine which is more tolerable: a Syrian leader willing to commit acts of genocide against his own countrymen or an aggressive move toward regime change for the greater good of the Syrian people and the Middle East.
While these measures may sound draconian, they are far less so than those employed by Bashar al-Assad in his mission to quash any dissent among those Syrians setting out to establish a more democratic society. Personal preservation of one’s regime is no excuse for gassing innocent children, among others.
Assad is an increasingly dangerous man. With the backing of Iran, and Putin as his corner man, he can be instrumental in redrawing the map of the entire Middle East. And not in a good way. His Arab neighbors, as well as the Israeli government, both know this. And they are growing increasingly uneasy with the alliances Assad has forged with like-minded rulers.
The brazen actions of Iran and Russia at the behest of Bashar al-Assad will inevitably cause pain for the leadership and citizens of nations throughout the region and beyond. They cannot be allowed to continue.
Regime change in Syria is inevitable. As President Trump has said, no option should be off the table. Missile strikes, however, are just one part of the equation.