Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

Is third world war looming large?

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Mohammad Amjad Hossain :
Cancelling the visit to attend summit of Americas in Peru President Donald Trump of the United States has decided stay back to supervise attack on Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad in response of his regime which reportedly used chemical weapons against his own people dropping barrel of bombs filled with poisonous gas on the rebel held enclave of Douma,suburb of Damascus. The attack jointly by the United States in collusion with Great Britain and France on 14 April may not have fulfilled objective because President Bashar al-Assad in collusion with Russian might have succeeded to remove chemical weapons deposits to a safer place. This possibility could not be ruled out because President Donald Trump repeatedly gave advanced waring to both Syrian regime and Russia as well to hit Syrian regime. This is for the first time Donald Trump has spoken against Russian Federation and its President Vladimir Putin. President Trump is on record by saying" President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing" Animal Assad." The language used by President Trump is apparently undiplomatic in nature. Russian Federation exercised veto power on 10 April against US crafted resolution in the security council to investigate the Douma attack. This is for the second time Russia exercised veto power in favor of Syrian regime by saying there was no evidence of chemical weapon use. A Kremlin spokesman warned that US military action could significantly destabilize the already fragile situation in the region.
The US-UK-France joined attack against Syrian regime came following President Trump ordered his national security team to withdraw all 2,000 US troops deployed in Syria by the fall. The President reportedly wanted to pull out immediately but abandoned the plan in the face of opposition from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Ministry of Defense, the State department, apart from the intelligence community. The dilly-dally action on retaliatory measures has given Russia and Syria plenty of time to make preparation indeed while Syrian military is reported to put its air defense systems on high alert and moved fighter planes to Russian operated air base.
The missile attack came almost a year after President Bashar al-Assad regime killed more than 90 people in rebel held town of Khan Sheikhoum with the nerve gas sarin. The United States under order of President Trump fired 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian air base last time.
The present joint attack on Syria is the result of Bashar al-Assad regime carried out attack by using chemical weapons in Eastern Douma, suburb of Damascus on 4 April. Witnesses reported to have said at least 70 people were killed and hundreds injured after Syrian government helicopters dropped barrel bombs filled with poison gas. Photos and videos of the aftermath show lifeless victims, including many women and children with foaming mouths, blue lips and open eyes. Russia, Iran and Iraq condemned the attack while Canada, Israel and Turkey   supported the attack.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denounced the strikes as an act of aggression that would exacerbate human catastrophe while Kremlin is calling emergency meeting of UN security council over the attack. It may be noted that Syrian regime agreed in 2013 to destroy its chemical weapons after a nerve gas attack killed hundreds of people in Douma.This agreement was the follow -up of discussion between President Barak Obama of the United States and President Vladimir Putin of Russian Federation. This agreement succeeded to cross redline warning of President Obama against Syrian regime.
Chief of the United Nations Antonio Gullerres,  meanwhile, urged all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of Syrian people.
It is leant that the Organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons has dispatched fact-finding mission to Douma with the permission of Syrian government. The United States is of the opinion that essential evidence is likely "to be tampered with by now." It is learnt that chemical weapon inspectors denied access to Douma suburb.
Seven years of civil war in Syria has already been complicated situation in Syria because multi-dimensional element is involved in Syria.
Turkey is involved against drive out Kurdish forces from Northern Syria while anti-government Free Syrian army and element of ISIS in Syria, AL-Qaeda affiliated Nusrat al Islam along with US forces and its allies are fighting against Syrian army. On the other hand, Syrian armed forces are being supported by Iran, Russia and Hezbollah militant fighter from Lebanon. By now eleven million Syrian have fled the country since civil war broke out in March of 2011.Of them, around five million took shelter in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq as well and the rest went to Europe to seek political asylum. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is providing humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees.
The attack on Syria on 14 April appears to be illegal as neither US nor France or UK seeks approval of the Security council. Moreover, US President Donald Trump did not seek approval of the Congress either to carry out strike against Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. It is difficult to understand strategy of President Trump.  Russia is reportedly claimed the attack on Syria is a violation of International law. In view of present stalemate situation, it is interesting to watch which way Russian Federation moves.

(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired diplomat from Bangladesh who writes from Virginia USA )

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