WRKO, By Mike Siegel, 11 April 2017
The horror of sarin gas being used to cause excruciatingly painful deaths to women and children by Assad required a response from the civilized world. Seven times Russia has vetoed U.N. Resolutions that would have condemned Assad for this behavior.
Since the world body would not act and the European Union and NATO remained on the sidelines, the United States was left with the task to stand up to this 21st century version of Adolph Hitler on a smaller scale.
President Obama cowered from his responsibility to do this in 2013 when Assad killed hundreds with chemical weapons. Obama had already established the now famous “red line” over which Assad went and no response occurred. Instead, Obama cut a deal with Russia to remove all chemical weapons from Syria. Only in January of this year, Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor stated that all chemical weapons were gone from Syria. That was a reminder of Dr. Rice famously appearing on 5 networks on a Sunday telling us it was an anti-Muslim video that caused the attack at Benghazi. Yeah, Right, in both cases!!!
Never mind her ‘unmasking” of American names in the surveillance of the Trump campaign for which there should be a thorough investigation of her behavior.
President Trump clearly made the right decision when he authorized 60 missiles to hit the Syrian air base from which the chemical attack emanated. He also clearly had the Constitutional authority to do so under his Article 2 Powers and under the War Powers Act passed by Congress. Our national security was at stake since the use of chemical weapons without strong response puts the United States is at risk of the same kind of attach against us. Further, we have American troops on the ground in Syria who the Commander in Chief must protect under his Constitutional duties. The ongoing chemical warfare attacks on his own civilian population has clearly left Assad with a blank check to continue this aberrant and destructive policy. This act by President Trump has punctuated clearly that we will not abide that behavior ever again.
However, we also know that Assad sent aircraft back to the same area that was targeted by the chemical weapon attack to make further bombing runs with standard bomb materials. In addition, the War Powers Act only authorizes the President to act unilaterally for a brief period to protect our troops and national security.
This leaves 3 fundamental questions:
- Since Assad in his belligerence continues bombing without the use of chemical weapons which are just as deadly, do we react to stop this continued killing of innocent women and children, and if so, what is the military strategy to do so?
- What is the long-term plan and strategy by the Trump Administration to deal with the Syria question, so that required consultations with Congress can take place and get Congressional authorization for this plan and strategic policy regarding Syria?
- Russia plays a major role in this issue. Would they be agreeable to removal of Assad and replacing him with a more moderate leader from the Alawite Shia sect? Since this is not likely, how will we deal with the Russian unwavering support for the Assad control of the Syrian government. Dmitry Medvedev, Russian Prime Minister, tweeted this weekend that the missile attacks by the United States were “illegal” and that they have brought the United States “on the brink of military conflict with Russia.”
This can be interpreted as bluster and puffery from the autocratic regime of Putin. Would he really create military hostilities with the United States over Syria? Highly unlikely. Nevertheless, the Trump Administration needs to exhaust all resources and avenues to creating a way in which Russia and the United States can reach a deal on Syria. Since there is no doubt that Russia knew of the chemical weapons in Syria and was party to the violation of the agreement with the Obama Administration, President Reagan’s words become relevant and prophetic. “Trust but Verify.” Perhaps the U.N. can play a role by having legitimate inspections of Syria and its chemical warfare capability. There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein sent his chemical weapons to Syria as verified by the Israeli Mossad and publicly stated by then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, so we really have no idea about the magnitude of the stockpiles of chemical weapons held by Assad.
It would be nice to be a fly on the wall when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin this Wednesday. That meeting may have huge consequences in numerous complex ways, especially regarding Syria.