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Air strikes in Syria: is this really the beginning of a WW3?


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Right after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the then president of the United States, George W. Bush, took one of the most reckless and thoughtless decisions ever. Instead of focusing on finding Bin Laden, who was suspected to be hidden in Pakistan, Bush decided to focus on invading two countries that had absolutely nothing to do with this attack: firstly Afghanistan, in 2001, and then Iraq in 2003.

Credit: Gage Skidmore

It is hard to imagine what goes through the mind of one of the most powerful people in the world to make such a mistake - one that could so well have been avoided. “Why not start a war, right now, out of nowhere? I have no idea what I’m doing, but why not?” The consequences are, of course, still visible today.

Now Donald Trump is being compared to him. Whether he made a mistake or not (and that is debatable) the consequences certainly aren’t. Last Friday, the US launched coordinated air strikes along with the UK and France, its allies, in response to an alleged chemical attack in Douma, a town near the Syrian capital Damascus, that killed at least 70.

These countries blamed the regime of the Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad and the production and usage of chemical weapons, even though the Syrian government denied being involved in this attack. Due to its extensive list of past records for using chemicals, this is unlikely to be true.

In his speech Trump also mentioned Iran and Russia, turning to Putin in particular to blame his government for supporting the Assad regime and not keeping the promise made in 2013 of eliminating chemical weapons. “Hopefully, someday we’ll get along with Russia, and maybe even Iran — but maybe not,” President Trump stated. It seems to me that maybe not.

But this speech was surprisingly moving. It is the first time we have seen Trump dedicate such a long time to international news, and it showed what seemed to be a genuine, humanitarian concern.

Unfortunately, what followed seemed to me the very beginning of a series of touching speeches - teamed with constant threats and more attacks. Here is Donald Trump's full speech from Friday:

Explosions were heard in three planned spots in Syria, right after this speech.

PM Theresa May said pretty much the same, adding that there is no alternative path and the UK, as a nation, has the duty to stand for and defend the “global rules and standards” that are being infringed.

Opinions on whether these air strikes were a disastrous move or the right thing to do seem to be very divided, but one sentiment unites us all: the fear of what might come next.

Kasseem Eid, a survivor of a chemical attack in Syria, spoke to CNN and showed gratitude to the US president for “actually doing something”. Broadly, I agree with him - I agree that it is better to do something than just say something.

But my problem isn’t with the US, the UK and Frances' intentions, but with the way they are doing it. It goes without saying that the money could be used for more urgent purposes, even though that too is possibly subject to a fired debate. According to figures cited by SkyNews, an airstrike bombing costs around half a million pounds to the UK, money that could be used to pay for 20 paramedics, 20 police officers, 20 teachers, 19 nurses, 18 firefighters and 18 junior doctors. Therefore, these airstrikes not only cause distress over their future implications, but also generate criticism from the British public, who could argue that this money could be used to improve, to name a few, healthcare, education and housing issues in the UK. 

Germany, Canada, Australia and Japan expressed their support. Mr Turnbull, for instance, showed full support for this action against the Russian “blatant disregard” of international law, but did not show any intention of participating.

Iran, Russia and China are now America’s biggest enemies. They have all condemned these air strikes, but the most worrisome situation is with Russia, as usual. Moscow called for an emergency session with the UN Security Council and Putin mentioned in his speech the contradiction that is fighting terrorism with “acts of aggression”.

The good news, even if not for long, is that Putin did not refer any kind of attack back at the US, which means that a WW3, instead of starting tomorrow, might start only within weeks. What is the probability that Russia stays to watch the US criticising their morals and threatening them? None, especially after the message that the Russian ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, posted on Twitter. “We warned that such actions will not be left without consequences. All responsibility for them rests with Washington, London and Paris,” Mr Antonov said.

A war has been already set up on Twitter, and now everybody is waiting for what will actually come next. Trump is known for his often bold tweets, therefore the straightforwardness with which he describes this plan of trying to eliminate the usage of chemical weapons is not very surprising, but I would much rather he kept criticising Meryl Streep than threatening Russia.

“Mission accomplished!”, Trump wrote on Twitter. I think the mission has just started.

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