Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

If you’ve been waiting for the right time to support our work—that time is now.

Our mission is simple: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

But without the support of our readers, this model does not work and we simply won’t survive. It’s that simple.
We must meet our Mid-Year Campaign goal but we need you now.

Please, support independent journalism today.

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

A sign seen at a #HandsOffSyria event in New York City on Friday, April 7. (Photo: Alec Perkins/flickr/cc)

Why Trump’s Syria Strike Will Not End Well

The only way to end Syria’s brutal bombing of civilians is through diplomacy, which will now be even harder.

Trita Parsi

 by Huffington Post

U.S. President Donald Trump claims the objective of his cruise missile strike on Syria is to deter Syrian President Bashar Assad from using chemical weapons again. But six years into Syria’s brutal civil war, Trump does not have the luxury of defining his objective that narrowly. Whether he likes it or not, he will be judged by his intervention’s impact on the trajectory of this war. And there, his action has no path to success.

By now, it is clear that the missile strike has not impeded Assad from using his air force to strike rebel strongholds. In fact, Syrian warplanes reportedly carried out strikes yesterday against rebels near the city of Homs — taking off from the very air base hit by U.S. missiles. Trump even gave Assad advanced notice via Russian President Vladimir Putin, which enabled the Syrian dictator to move his troops and bunker his planes. Moreover, Trump left one of the airstrips at the targeted base untouched, which is why Assad could quickly use the base to launch further attacks.

Very soon, Trump will face the first reactions to his strike. Both Assad and Putin are likely to intensify their assault on the rebel strongholds and the civilians living in those areas. The end result will be a more intensified civil war with more civilian casualties and even greater difficulty for diplomatic efforts to bear fruit. This will create two opposite pressures ― pressure to de-escalate as a result of confusion over what the U.S. is trying to achieve and pressure to escalate in order to save face and achieve a defensible result before any de-escalation takes place.

The end result will be a more intensified civil war with more casualties and greater difficulty for diplomatic efforts. The de-escalation option will reveal the significant limitations to Trump’s new-won sympathy for the plight of the Syrian people, as well as to his commitment to prolonged military operations. If he chooses escalation, on the other hand, he risks a wider regional war, including potential confrontation with Russia. The dynamics of this particularly complicated conflict will make Trump lose control of the course of events. Furthermore, the type of military operation that could potentially steer developments in Syria is so sizable that both Congress and the American public would vehemently oppose it, as they did in 2013.

Whichever path Trump chooses, success is unlikely.

But what if Trump had the political maneuverability to get away with the narrow objective of simply deterring Assad from gassing his own people? Couldn’t the cruise missile strike be successful?

Even in that hypothetical scenario, the odds are against Trump because it won’t entirely remove the use of chemical weapons from the Syrian theater. After all, the so-called Islamic State has reportedly used chemical weapons in Syria and Iraq more than 52 times. Nor will it stop Assad from killing thousands of his own people using conventional weapons. The pictures may be less alarming, but the carnage will continue, making Trump’s action difficult to defend.

At that point, the very same people cheering Trump’s intervention will turn against him, feeling betrayed and let down. In their view, Trump will have left the job unfinished. The impulse that “something must be done” to put an end to the humanitarian disaster in Syria is correct. But when that “something” can only mean military measures, the U.S. makes itself part of the problem rather than the solution.

It is profoundly hypocritical of Trump to launch missile strikes to protect Syrian children when he himself has prevented those same children from finding refuge in America. During his election campaign, Trump callously stated that he could “look in [Syrian refugee children’s] faces and say ‘You can’t come.’ I’ll look them in the face.”

Trump launching strikes before trying diplomacy gives little hope that he has the political will to truly resolve the conflict.Helping ensure that children and civilians aren’t trapped in Syria should be the first and most obvious thing the U.S. can do to help. Second, a far more robust dedication toward finding a diplomatic solution is needed, although such a solution is now more difficult to achieve. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry should be commended for his efforts to broker a Syrian deal. I describe in my forthcoming book on the Iran deal negotiations that Kerry, together with former President Barack Obama, provided a key ingredient for the success of those talks: a near unprecedented degree of political will and commitment toward making the negotiations succeed. 

Diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program had been taking place on and off for more than a decade. But those negotiations were profoundly flawed. And even when they became more appropriately structured and realistic, they often faltered due to insufficient political will from one or both sides. The readiness to expend the necessary political capital and pay the domestic political price to achieve a deal was simply missing. Diplomacy had to succeed on the cheap.

But complex international disputes such as the stand-off over the Iranian nuclear program or the Syrian civil war cannot be resolved on the cheap. Trump launching strikes before trying diplomacy gives little hope that he has the political will to truly resolve the conflict.7


© 2021 Huffington Post
Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi is Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute and an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is author of "Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy"; "A Single Roll of the Dice - Obama's Diplomacy with Iran"; and "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States."

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

'We WILL Fight Back': Outrage, Resolve as Protests Erupt Against SCOTUS Abortion Ruling

Demonstrators took to the streets Friday to defiantly denounce the Supreme Court's right-wing supermajority after it rescinded a constitutional right for the first time in U.S. history.

Brett Wilkins ·


80+ US Prosecutors Vow Not to Be Part of Criminalizing Abortion Care

"Criminalizing and prosecuting individuals who seek or provide abortion care makes a mockery of justice," says a joint statement signed by 84 elected attorneys. "Prosecutors should not be part of that."

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressives Rebuke Dem Leadership as Clyburn Dismisses Death of Roe as 'Anticlimactic'

"The gap between the Democratic leadership, and younger progressives on the question of 'How Bad Is It?' is just enormous."

Julia Conley ·


In 10 Key US Senate Races, Here's How Top Candidates Responded to Roe Ruling

While Republicans unanimously welcomed the Supreme Court's rollback of half a century of reproductive rights, one Democrat said "it's just wrong that my granddaughter will have fewer freedoms than my grandmother did."

Brett Wilkins ·


Sanders Says End Filibuster to Combat 'Outrageous' Supreme Court Assault on Abortion Rights

"If Republicans can end the filibuster to install right-wing judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democrats can and must end the filibuster, codify Roe v. Wade, and make abortion legal and safe," said the Vermont senator.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo