the US strike against Syria

The editors of the Financial Times write that Friday’s barrage of missiles might discourage Assad from using chemical weapons in the future. Now, they conclude, Trump’s government should “translate this show of resolve into something resembling a policy”.

So far, the messages have been mixed. Only last week … [Nikki Haley, Mr Trump’s UN ambassador, said] “Do we think he’s a hindrance? Yes. Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No,” …. Such ambivalence may even have emboldened Damascus to carry out Tuesday’s massacre. ….

Nor, alone, will Friday’s strike do much to safeguard lives. …. Mr Trump has reacted specifically to the use of chemical weapons. Far more people have been killed at Mr Assad’s hands with cluster munitions, barrel bombs, siege and starvation. His ability to pluck any one of these out of the arsenal remains very much intact. Safe zones for civilian opponents of the regime, once promised by Mr Trump, would have to be worked out between the US and Russia, and involve Iran and Turkey too — a distant prospect.

Yet there can be no hope that the millions of Syrians scattered by the war will return home so long as Mr Assad’s murderous machinery remains in place. Nor can there be any hope of progress in UN-backed negotiations towards a political resolution so long as Mr Assad has power. Mr Trump appears belatedly to be reaching that conclusion. It is far from certain that he can persuade Mr Putin to agree.

Washington redraws the red line in Syria’s conflict“, Financial Times editorial, 8 April 20017 (gated paywall).

All this is true, but I see two problems with the editors’ line of thinking. First, Assad is supported by a powerful, nuclear-armed country: Russia. Second, if Assad is toppled, Isis could be the main beneficiary. Sadly, there are no easy solutions. Meanwhile, the people of Syria continue to suffer.

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