Trump Condemns Syrian Chemical Attack
President Trump blamed his predecessor’s inaction for the alleged chemical attack carried out by Syria’s President, Bashar al Assad, on Tuesday. Based on post-mortem examinations of several victims, medical professionals have suggested that the likely agent is Sarin. Trump reversed his general policy on avoiding military intervention, and said that Assad’s behavior crossed a number of red lines. The death toll is rumored to be nearing 100, with another 200 wounded.
World Leaders Disagree Over How to Deal With Syria
The scope of the attack has led for calls to depose the Syrian leader from U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May and America’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley. Haley also pointed a finger at Russia for trying to deflect criticism of Syria. The Russian government said that the airstrike targeted a terrorist arsenal, and that the effects on the civilians were due to the dangerous chemicals stored in the insurgents’ warehouse.
Government Crackdowns Led to Opposition Revolt
Tuesday’s attack was the latest escalation in the civil war which has rocked Syria for the last six years. After the Assad government clamped down on protests, thousands of people flocked to the opposition. By 2012, rebels had overrun much of the country, included Syria’s major cities, Damascus and Aleppo. To add to the confusion, Islamic State chose this time to take over large parts of both Syria and Iraq. This has led to a bizarre conflict where both government forces and Syrian rebels are fighting against Islamic State while also fighting each other.
Housing and Agriculture Suffer During Protracted Civil War
Chemical weapons attacks are not the only consequence of the civil war. The fighting has caused the deaths of more than 500,000 people. 11 million Syrians were forced to leave their homes, including almost 5 million people who have left the country to seek asylum in Europe, Australia, Asia, and the Americas. The war has also destroyed the country’s agriculture. First, farms face the loss of the primary labor force, many of whom have joined the forces of one of the combatants. Second, fighting has done $16 billion in damage to crops, livestock, equipment, and greenhouses.
Russia Backs Assad to Maintain Middle East Foothold
One reason for the length of the war is Russian support of the Assad government. President Putin feels that Syria is one its few allies in the region. He keeps Assad in power to protect its military assets in the region. As a member of the UN Security Council, Russia has been able to protect Syria from any resolutions calling for action against the harsh measures used by Assad. Supposedly, Russia worked with President Obama on agreement to destroy the cache of Syrian chemical weapons, part of which had been used on an attack on the rebel town of Ghouta in 2013. That attack killed several hundred people, and President Obama had threatened to carry out airstrikes if Assad continued to use chemical agents.
Haunting Images Helped Change Trump’s Priorities
The images of the victims in the latest attack, including at least 11 children, changed Trump’s opinion on the importance of confronting Assad. Until recently, Trump had been more concerned with managing North Korea and Iran, countries presenting more direct threats to the United States. Following the 2013 chemical attacks, Trump actually implored President Obama to avoid airstrikes via Twitter:
“President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your ‘powder’ for another (and more important) day!”
Airstrikes Can’t Enforce Long-term Policy
However, it is likely that Trump will run up against the same limitations that faced his predecessor. While airstrikes can damage specific targets, this only provides a temporary solution. Actually protecting a civilian population from a dictatorship requires an investment of both equipment and soldiers. A large number of Americans who currently express isolationist views. So this is a risky step for a President who is already facing falling approval ratings.
How Does Trump’s Stance on Syria Affect Trading?
Putin’s support for Assad could drive a rift between the United States and Russia. This is especially true as rumors of Russian interference in American elections are being investigated. The uncertainty regarding the relationship between the two countries could lead investors to park their money in gold. If Trump does decide to take military action, this would benefit the stock prices for a number of companies in the deens industry.