Sunday, April 8, 2018

Last Call For A Syria's Problem

If one of the bonuses of Putin's interference with our elections and the Trump regime is "getting away with literal murder in Syria" then the Kremlin has to be pretty pleased with itself right about now.

President Trump on Sunday promised a “big price” to be paid for what he said was a chemical weapons attack that choked dozens of Syrians to death the day before, and a top White House official said the administration would not rule out a missile strike to retaliate against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a tweet, Mr. Trump laid the blame for the attack partly on President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, the first time since his election that he has criticized the Russian leader by name on Twitter. Mr. Putin’s forces have been fighting for years to keep the Assad government in power amid Syria’s brutal civil war.

Mr. Trump also left no doubt that he believed the assessment of aid groups that Mr. Assad’s military had used chemical weapons to inflict the carnage on Saturday in Douma, a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The attack left at least 42 people dead in their homes from apparent suffocation and sent many others to clinics with burning eyes and breathing problems.

“Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria,” Mr. Trump wrote. “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad.”

“Big price to pay,” Mr. Trump continued in a second tweet. “Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

Thomas P. Bossert, Mr. Trump’s homeland security adviser, said he and the rest of the president’s national security team had been in talks with Mr. Trump late Saturday and early Sunday about how to respond. Asked specifically about the possibility of a missile strike, Mr. Bossert did not rule it out.

“I wouldn’t take anything off the table,” Mr. Bossert said on ABC’s “This Week.” “These are horrible photos; we’re looking into the attack at this point.”

That raised the prospect of a strike along the lines of one that the president ordered almost exactly a year ago after a sarin gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 civilians. In that strike, the United States military dropped 59 Tomahawk missiles on the Al Shayrat airfield, where the chemical weapons attack had originated.

Mr. Trump may be considering such a strike even as he has expressed his desire in recent days to pull American troops out of Syria, where they are seeking to eliminate the last vestiges of the Islamic State. White House officials said Mr. Trump would have a meeting and dinner on Monday at the White House with senior military leaders.

Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, announced an emergency meeting there on Monday to demand immediate access to Douma for emergency workers, urge an independent investigation of the massacre, and “hold accountable those responsible for this atrocious act.”

The assault on Douma and the president’s response also showed how Syria has bedeviled Mr. Trump just as it did his predecessor, repeatedly presenting them with grave challenges and few good options for confronting them.

Understand that if Trump responds with another Tomahawk missile attack, Putin wins.

There's no reason to believe at this point that Trump won't declare victory over ISIS in Syria and complete the withdrawal of troops, either.  It's easy and fashionable to pin all this on Obama too, but the reality is that the US has been outmanuevered by Putin for some time now in both Europe and the Middle East dating back to almost two decades.  Putin can afford to play the longest of games, and he's been winning for some time now.  I don't see any way to stop him at this point, either.

There's enough chaos in the former Baltics and Eastern Europe now that the buffer between Russia and the European Union is non-existent, with several Eastern European countries now firmly under the sway of virulent nationalism. In the Middle East, propping up Syria and winning over Iran has been Putin's crowning achievement. And there's every indication that Trump is doing all Putin's heavy lifting for him and is clearing the decks to get the last obstacles between the Kremlin and Russian hegemony in the Middle East out of the way.

Where we go from here is anyone's guess, but my gut tells me Trump is going to do something catastrophically stupid and soon.

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