The US attack on Syria could well be the start of a war on terrorism

An aerial view shows hangers at a Syrian airbase after it was hit by US missiles. Russian Defence Ministry Press Service via AP Photo
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Arabic News Digest

The US military launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles on Shayrat airfield in western Syria last week in response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun.

According to the Syria’s Arabic-language newspaper Al Watan, America’s response has put the Syrian crisis at a crossroads.

“The strike was a response – albeit late – to global demands that the US military intervene to put an end to the Syrian crisis that has been going on for more than six years,” its editorial noted.

“It was also a test for the US administration to take the action it owes to the world in light of Russia’s seven vetoes against holding the Assad regime to account for its crimes that have left hundreds of thousands of Syrians dead and caused the displacement of millions.”

Russia has condemned the US attack and warned that it could have a serious impact on US-Russian relations.

The editorial said that Russia was well aware that a US military intervention would put an end to its control of the Syrian conflict.

As for Iran, it will have to halt its interference in Syria.

“The world is furious at Iran’s foreign policy and will not hesitate to deter it by any means.

“The whole world is aware of Iran’s policies on Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. As such, there had been constant demand for US intervention.”

The editorial concluded that now it’s time to wait and see whether it was intended to be a one-time strike or if it would be followed by further operations.

Writing in the London-based pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat, Egyptian columnist Emile Ameen examined the recent events from a wider geopolitical perspective.

“The attack on Syria was intended as a rapid retaliation for using chemical weapons against civilians, but it has resonated throughout the world and has got other countries analysing and considering the worst-case scenario,” Ameen wrote.

“The first question to be asked here is whether the US-Russian honeymoon is over.”

Ameen said that it probably was.

“America even asked Russians to withdraw from the airfield hours before the attack so as not to complicate matters.”

The writer noted that the attack coincided with Chinese president Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States.

He wondered whether by doing so the US president, Donald Trump, was sending a message to China.

“Is this a warning to China against competing with the United States as the latter will implement its decisions without the need to consult anyone?”

According to the writer, the alarm bells rung by the US have echoed in Tehran, too.

“Iran’s leadership has always thought that Washington would not enter into a military confrontation in the Arabian Gulf.

“Hence, it has meddled with the security of the Arab world, both directly and indirectly,” Ameen noted.

But, he argued, the scene is as yet incomplete.

“The world has to wait for the reactions of Moscow, Tehran and Beijing. Only time will tell if America’s moves will lead to reprisals around the world or if the attack on Syria will serve as an example for others to calculate their steps,” the writer concluded.

Mohamed Al Hammadi, the editor in chief of Aletihad, the sister publication of The National, said: “The attack sent the message that the rules of the game had changed and that a new era was unfolding, where the US has become a key player in the region after Barack Obama had turned it into a mere observer and, at times, a false witness.”

The writer saw in the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun an attempt by the Syrian regime to test Mr Trump’s decision-making ability.

“The Assad regime thought that the US president would be like his predecessor. It was stunned by Mr Trump’s swift response.”

According to Al Hammadi, Mr Trump’s message was clear and the missiles launched were a warning to the Assad regime, Iran and their allies that the world would no longer keep quiet.

“It is true that the missile attack was launched by the US, but the decision to strike Syria was global,” he noted.

Most countries, including the UAE, as well as many other Arab and western nations have voiced their support for Mr Trump.

The writer concluded that the US strike against Syrian might actually be the beginning of the war against terrorism.

* Translated by Jennifer Attieh