On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting, “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”
On Tuesday morning, speaking on BBC 4 Today programme, the British Defence Minister Sir Michael Fallon was asked how Britain would respond to another American attack on Syria, and he responded “we will support” future US action in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
With these unsubstantiated statements on Syria, the Trump Administration is dragging the world towards the law of the jungle. As if the situation in the Middle East was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made the situation much worse, and are in fact leading us towards a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.
Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law and without any authorization by the Security Council, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq, which destroyed the country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has since waged a campaign of terrorism throughout the world.
Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.
Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration and the deep state have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration is acting in a dangerous and arrogant way and is dragging the world towards another catastrophe.
Shortly after coming to power, President Donald Trump and his disgraced National Security Advisor Michael Flynn singled Iran out for condemnation and put her on notice, despite the fact that the Iranian government had spent hundreds of hours in constructive talks not only with the United States, but with all the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and had reached a landmark agreement that was then endorsed by the Security Council.
The agreement blocked all the paths to Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, even if she ever had any intention of manufacturing them, something that Iran has denied, and years of investigation have not provided a shred of evidence to the contrary.
President Trump chose Saudi Arabia, the home of Wahhabi fundamentalism that has provided the ideological framework for nearly all the militant Sunni terrorist groups from Al Qaeda, to the Taliban, to Boko Haram and finally to ISIS and its various affiliates, which have created mayhem throughout the world, including the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States, as the venue for his first foreign visit. While in Riyadh, he bizarrely formed a “coalition against extremism” with Saudi leaders at its head.
However, as Trump made absolutely clear in his speech to the unelected Arab monarchs, the main aim of the coalition was to unite those Sunni potentates against Iran.
In the past few weeks, America has launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government in their battle against ISIS. On 18th May and 6th June, American aircraft bombed pro-Syrian militias in southern Syria. They shot down two Iranian-made drones on 8th and 20 June, and on 18th June a US fighter shot down a Syrian aircraft near the town of Tabqah, west of Raqqa, while the Syrian aircraft was attacking ISIS forces in Raqqa. American and Israeli forces have also frequently attacked the forces affiliated with the Syrian government.
On 6th April, the day when Trump was playing host to the Chinese President, he fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base from which a Syrian aircraft that had allegedly used chemical weapons had taken off. This was despite the fact that the United Nations was still investigating the source of the attack and some evidence produced since, including an article by award winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, have cast doubt on the veracity of those accusations.
As Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, are gaining the upper hand and pushing the terrorists and the insurgents out of Syria, the intensity of Israeli and American attacks on Syrian government forces has increased.
From the start of the crisis in Syria, there have been a number of theories based on some leaked information that claimed that the entire debacle in Syria was part of a vicious plot by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, initially supported by Turkey and Qatar, to isolate Iran and to cut off any links between Iran and Hezbollah through Syria.
Sadly, all the recent events seem to confirm those assumptions. The US Secretary of State has openly spoken about the need for regime change in Tehran, and many members of Congress have also backed those calls. The US Congress has again imposed new sanctions on Iran in clear violation of the JCPOA. American courts have blocked huge Iranian assets and have turned them over to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, despite the fact that 15 out of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens.
A court is considering at the moment the confiscation of a major building belonging to an Iranian foundation in New York again on flimsy charges.
However, whether those theories about US involvement in Syria in support of Israel and against Iran were correct or not, the fact remains that the Trump Administration, once again supported by Britain, is engaged in an illegal and dangerous course of action that may result in a major confrontation between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other.
There is no need to point out that these actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and are aggressive actions taken illegally in a sovereign state. However, there are a number of points that need to be stressed in this connection:
1. On the basis of which authority is the United States engaging in hostile acts in Syria against that country’s legal government? Russian and Iranian forces have been invited by the Syrian government to fight against the terrorists. By what authority does the United States station her forces in that country and attack Syrian forces?
2. Is the Trump Administration sincere in wanting to fight against ISIS or not? If it is, then why has it intensified its attacks on Syrian and allied forces just at a time when ISIS is on the verge of collapse?
3. Does the Trump Administration believe in democracy, free elections and the rule of law or not? If it does, then how is it possible to side with a number of autocratic rulers in Riyadh on the day when millions of Iranians took part in competitive and vibrant elections with 76 per cent turnout to choose their new president?
4. Is the Trump Administration interested in changing the behavior of the Iranian government, with greater freedoms and more emphasis on human rights, or is it intent on regime change no matter what, in order to please its Israeli and Arab clients? Iran has moved a long way towards greater openness at home and greater coexistence with the West, as evidenced by the JCPOA. Is it not wiser to allow these democratic practices to take their course in the only country in the Middle East with the greatest potential for democracy and cooperation with the West?
5. Has the Trump Administration calculated the cost of another major war in the Middle East, which might prove to be even more disastrous than the invasion of Iraq and Libya? If it hasn’t, is it not time for the international community to tell the US Administration that it will not bear the brunt of another unnecessary catastrophe in the Middle East?
6. During the campaign, candidate Trump often talked about how good it would be to cooperate with Russia to fight ISIS. Russia and Iran have been the two countries that have been fighting ISIS both in Syria and Iraq ever since that terrorist organization was formed. If Trump meant what he said, why is he not cooperating with Russia to finish the job in Syria, instead of hampering Russian and Iranian efforts in support of the Syrian government to restore peace to that country? Have Trump and his generals thought about the consequences of a confrontation with Russia for America and the world?
7. Does the Trump Administration believe in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict with some justice for the hard-pressed Palestinians who have lived under a brutal occupation for more than 50 years, or is it going to turn a blind eye to their suffering by supporting Israel’s illegal occupation? For the sake of sustainable peace in the Middle East, would it not be better to put some pressure on Israel to reach a fair settlement with the millions of Palestinians either on a one-state or a two-state solution, instead of destabilizing the Middle East in support of unreasonable Israeli demands?
8. During the campaign, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Obama for having set a red line for Syria not to use chemical weapons, and then did nothing when Syria allegedly used chemical weapons. Does he realize that by issuing such statements he is making an open invitation to the terrorists to undertake such false flag operations and then he will be boxed in and would have no option but to launch a heavy attack on Syria, whether the government was responsible for the use of chemical weapons or not?
9. Finally, does the Trump Administration believe in the rule of law, the supremacy of the Security Council and the need for negotiations and talks, or does it believe in the law of the jungle? If it believes in the rule of law and peaceful resolution of conflicts, it should clearly stop any action that is not authorized by the Security Council and that goes against international law.
The world is poised at a very critical juncture.
The events in Syria could either lead to the restoration of stability in that war-torn country whose people have gone through unimaginable hardships, or it can pave the way for a global confrontation the outcome of which is too frightening to contemplate.