Washington is looking into the possibility of launching new attacks against Syria, according to US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, as the new strikes could come as a response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons. Radio Sputnik spoke with senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, Dr. Tim Anderson.
Sputnik: In your view, how likely is it that a new US attack against Syria is going to happen?
Dr. Tim Anderson: Well it’s unpredictable because the rationales keep changing and the US commitment to this war is uncertain at the moment because they have steadily been losing for the last couple of years, but these sorts of threats have become rather routine.
It might sound a little bit different because we have a new intelligence spokesperson here appointed by President Trump last year but he has been in their intelligence committee since the beginning of the conflict, so he is really part of the establishment of this war. But it’s a repetition of what we have seen several times before.
Sputnik: Last year when President Trump ordered these strikes the world was very negative, it was a very divisive action that happened and probably a bit out of surprise in terms of what he was talking about before. So if these new strikes do happen, what are the repercussions that may happen and bring for the Syrian government as it stands at the moment and for the peace process in the country? It certainly looks like it’s going to go backwards, by the sound of things.
Dr. Tim Anderson: Well if you listen to the rhetoric, I suppose, coming out of Washington, that’s the problem that the rhetoric is at a very high level. In some ways it’s at a high level because they are running out of options and really they have been losing for quite some time, as I said.
Remember that it was US intelligence back six years ago that said they knew that extremists were in the insurgency and that is exactly what they wanted. Only just a few weeks ago, Defense Secretary Mattis said that, well, they didn’t have any evidence directly of use of sarin gas in Syria.
We know, however, from independent evidence that Jabhat al-Nusra*, the group you just mentioned, was arrested in Turkey with sarin gas and that the UN investigated the use of sarin gas early in 2013. So if you look at the facts, the independent evidence has said that the al-Qaeda** groups have used sarin gas and the Syrian government has not. But it doesn’t stop the US from keeping using that rhetoric to try and heat up things and try to undermine the possibilities of a political settlement.
Sputnik: As the rhetoric continues it is very confusing what the end game is, as I mentioned before; what comes next for the Syrian peace process from your point of view, what can you share with our listeners?
Dr. Tim Anderson: The local on the ground military solutions in many respects have been very important and also the reconciliation, let’s not forget that since 2012 there has been this process of trying to reintegrate fighters who didn’t have blood on their hands, who weren’t directly involved in killing people.
People who have assisted those groups or those who have been bought over with Saudi money and so on, and that has led to more than ten thousand people, I can’t give you an exact figure on that. So there has been some process inside the country and then there was a process in Sochi just recently after the Astana talks, where significant number of groups, internal opposition as well as external opposition, which is important, agreed to adoptive framework of leading to a new constitution.
I think the US is really upset with that it doesn’t have a say in that and it’s been taken out of its hands by the regional players and Russia and perhaps a lot of these recent provocations have been trying to undermine the fact that, not only on the military level but at a diplomatic level and political level, there is movement towards a resolution here.
*Jabhat al-Nusra is a terrorist group banned in Russia
** al-Qaeda is a terrorist group banned in Russia
The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Tim Anderson are those of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.