America is back

YouTube download / PBS Newshour video / President Trump announces missile strikes on Syria: The president did not announce the attacks in advance, though he and other national security officials ratcheted up their warnings to the Syrian government throughout the day Thursday.
 
Stan Escudero / Headline SurferBy STAN ESCUDERO
The Guidepost
Headline Surfer®

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- At a single stroke our President has delivered a measured, proportionate tactical message of immediate strategic import to the Russians, the Islamic world, China and North Korea. The United States has resumed its proper role on the world stage and the global equation has just been changed.

Donald Trump’s reply to Bashar al-Assad’s cruel slaughter of innocent children was prompt and precisely focused. The planes that delivered the sarin gas bombs and the base from which they flew are destroyed. Damascus and its Russian supporters have been put on unmistakable notice.  Syria has five other air bases and many other targets should the lesson need repeating.

All over the world leaders fearing for international stability in the wake of Obama’s withdrawal of American influence are quietly cheering, “It’s about time”.

Conservative Muslim nations like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan are delighted.  Most importantly Turkey, the most powerful among them, is strongly supportive of the strike, and this despite the fact that the Erdogan government is the most Islamic Turkey has seen since the First World War.

The 59 Tomahawks struck the Syrian base at Shayhat while President Trump was dining at Mar-a-Lago with the Chinese President Xi JinPing.  If Xi had any doubt about that Trump is serious, that he means what he says, those doubts have been erased. This will matter for any future Chinese risk assessment regarding their efforts to extend their influence via the artificial islands in the South China Sea and especially as regards Washington’s insistence that China end North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs lest the US do it.  And in Pyongyang North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un must be shaking in his fat.

Chinese President Xi JinPing has dinner in Florida with President Trump / Headline SurferThe 59 Tomahawks struck the Syrian base at Shayhat while President Trump was dining at Mar-a-Lago with the Chinese President Xi JinPing.  If Xi had any doubt about that Trump is serious, that he means what he says, those doubts have been erased. This will matter for any future Chinese risk assessment regarding their efforts to extend their influence via the artificial islands in the South China Sea and especially as regards Washington’s insistence that China end North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs lest the US do it.  And in Pyongyang North Korean dictator Kim Jung-Un must be shaking in his fat.

Other than the members of the American imbecilic Left, no one thinks that the Syrian strike augurs World War III or a decision to enter the Syrian Civil War as a repeat of Viet Nam. But what happens next will not only determine the direction of the Syrian civil conflict, it will have a major influence on the future role which America is to play under Donald Trump.  If nothing is done beyond the missile strike, it will become meaningless in a very short time.  But if we overplay our hand the regional situation could worsen with substantial risk to the 6000 US troops deployed in Iraq and Syria and loss of the several opportunities which this incident has offered us. 

This is the time for intense, deft diplomacy.

Our first and most important steps must be with Russia. Thanks to Obama’s limp-wristed policies, Russia is deeply involved in the Syrian conflict and no solution will be possible which does not include Moscow’s participation and approval.  The Russe were quite properly informed of the planned missile attack shortly before it took place so that they could prevent harm to any of their personnel who might have been on the scene.  Nevertheless Putin attacked our strike as “aggression” and has ended de-confliction between our respective air assets operating in Syria.  The first is necessary for Putin, as we did hit his client.  The second is both minimal and reversible, and it need not become important unless there is some accidental encounter between Russian warplanes and our own – something neither side wants. 

The UN Security Council will meet later today on Syria and we should expect the Russian Ambassador there to criticize our actions and to veto any UNSC resolution directed against the al-Assad regime.  This will be mostly theater since the UNSC does not matter in this issue.  The real diplomacy will take place behind the scenes involving the US, Russia and perhaps one or two regional states such as Turkey and a puppet representative from Syria.

The penultimate goal must be to negotiate al-Assad’s departure. The final aim would be an end to the Syrian Civil War.  Either will be extremely difficult. 

Syria is a badly divided confessional community. Al-Assad is head of the Alawites, a peculiar offshoot of Shia Islam with substantial Zoroastrian and Christian aspects.  The Alawites have ruled Syria and dominated its Sunni Muslim majority for over 50 years. They have also protected Syria’s Christians, who share their fear of the country’s Sunnis.  Initially the negotiators will have to identify an Alawite acceptable to his community as a replacement for al-Assad.  No one comes to mind immediately and, if there were an obvious candidate, al-Assad would have long since killed him.

Any successor would also have to be acceptable to the Sunni community, which is also divided against itself. All of the guerilla groups in rebellion against Al-Assad are Sunni and many of them fight one another as hard as they fight the government in Damascus. If a leader or group of leaders can be found who could speak credibly for the Sunni, they would have to agree to a modus operandi under which they and the Alawites would together govern the country and protect its Christians and other minorities.

Finally, some kind of strong mechanism would have to be created, agreed and emplaced to ensure that the terms of any agreement reached between the Syrian parties are adhered to and to react forcefully to preclude a renewal of internal conflict.

Then there is Iran.  Long a supporter of the semi-Shiite al-Assad regime, Tehran has thousands of Revolutionary Guard fighters in Syria. Iran also largely controls the many Hezbullah (a Shia guerilla group based in Lebanon) fighters also engaged in Syria and who operate a number of artillery batteries along the Syrian/Israeli border. Any of these combatants could be used at any time to restart violence and derail any peace and settlement negotiations which might get underway.  Indeed, we could almost expect Iran-supported terrorist attacks against American special forces units in Iraq and Syria or strikes against our Israeli allies as early Iranian efforts to prevent a solution to a civil war which has enabled Iran to advance its power into Syria and Lebanon.

Here again the Russians are best positioned to persuade Tehran not to mess about. Iran is dependent upon Russia for arms, nuclear technology and a wide range of trade, not to mention Moscow’s support in international fora like the UN. This would not be easy for Moscow which, absent important gains elsewhere, would likely be unwilling to damage its relationship with the Persians and lose its Syrian client just to put an end to a conflict which has provided Russia the opportunity to re-establish a position in the Middle East which they lost in 1973.  It is for American diplomacy to convince the Russians to do just that.

Those familiar with my writing know that I favor close US-Russian cooperation against radical Islam and, in a more limited sense, China. Al-Assad’s chemical outrage and our response have created an obvious and immediate need to begin developing such cooperation.

Stanley T. Escudero
April 7, 2017

 

 

 

Stan Escudero Picture

Short Bio

The Guidepost By Stanley Escudero
Stanley Escudero is a retired career diplomat, businessman & native Floridian, who lives in Daytona Beach Shores, Florida, with his wife, Jaye. He served as chairman of the Volusia County Republican Executive Committee in 2011-2012. Escudero was appointed to the Daytona State College Board of Trustees in 2015, By Gov. Rick Scott. Escudero, writer of the 'The Guidepost' politcal column since 2010, is a member of the inaugural Class of 2017 Headline Surfer Hall of Fame. All news content copyright-protected intellectual property of NSB News LLC, which may not be duplicated or re-published in whole or in part without advance approval of the publisher. Headline Surfer® is published by award-winning journalist Henry Frederick.