The theatre of conflict in the blood-soaked Syria has just widened further with the western military forces carrying out coordinated missile attacks targeting the alleged chemical weapons sites in Damascus. The bombing comes as a major escalation in the West’s confrontation with Syria’s allies Russia and Iran and is likely to widen the conflict that has already killed an estimated five lakh people in the last seven years. It also raises questions over whether the Western military intervention in Syria will go the Iraq way. It appears that the Saturday’s missile strike may not be a one-time, limited operation but may lead to a long-term confrontation, dragging several other countries into the war. The military operation opens a perilous new chapter in the Syrian civil war and risks dragging America further into an already complex conflict, now in its eighth year. The joint operation by the United States, Britain and France was in retaliation to the suspected poison gas attack by the forces of the President Bashar al-Assad on the rebel-held town of Douma on April 7. It is not clear whether the precision strike will succeed in its objective of deterring Assad from using chemical weapons against his own people. The civil war has already inflicted unimaginable miseries on the people as the country has become a battleground teeming with competing Syrian factions, terrorists, and forces of the United States and other foreign powers. Syria is akin to a gunpowder store where a small spark can potentially set off an explosion felt around the world.
Under the United Nations Charter, there are two justifications for using force against another country without its consent: in self-defense and with the UN Security Council’s permission. While the former does not apply in this case, and the latter would be impossible, given Russia’s veto power in the Council. While there is no denying that Assad’s reprehensible actions must have consequences, the unilateral US-led military strikes may further complicate the situation and it is doubtful whether Assad’s regime will stop atrocities on its people. There is danger of provoking a far more perilous conflict if American weapons accidentally kill Russian or Iranian soldiers. Russia has already vowed to retaliate if its troops are harmed. If the aims of America are humanitarian and sincere, it must stop treating Syrian refugees like terrorist threats rather than war victims. It is ironic that all the foreign powers originally entered Syria with lofty promises of protecting its people but far from helping to alleviate the suffering of people, they have subordinated the safety and security of Syrians to their own narrow goals. The civil war in Syria is poised to enter its eighth year with no end in sight.