News / Middle East

US Attack on Syria May Have Consequences

A man and boys inspect a site hit by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Duma, Damascus, Sept. 4, 2013.
A man and boys inspect a site hit by what activists said was shelling by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, Duma, Damascus, Sept. 4, 2013.
President Barack Obama and his advisers are talking about strictly limited U.S. military strikes to deal with Syria’s suspected use of chemical weapons against anti-government rebels. Regional experts, however, warn that even limited U.S. military strikes could have longer-term consequences.
 
Obama says that if and when he decides to attack Syria, the military operation will be designed to punish President Bashar al-Assad’s regime for the suspected use of chemical weapons just outside Damascus on August 21, and to deter it from carrying out any more such attacks.  

Christopher Hill, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and former special envoy to Kosovo (1996-99), says he is in favor of limited military strikes.

“The U.S. has to respond - not just the U.S., the entire international community has to respond to the use of weapons that, after all, were banned almost a hundred years ago, were not even used by the Nazis in World War II because of what they did in World War I,” Hill said. “Britain in particular had many, many of its soldiers, thousands of its soldiers in World War I, blinded and killed by these weapons.”

Hill says it is very important that the international community sends a strong signal that anyone who uses these weapons will face repercussions.

“But the problem is we don’t have an overall way forward on Syria,” Hill continued. “People are out there fighting in Syria, either on Assad’s forces or against Assad, because they have no idea what the future of the country is going to hold, and therefore they feel that in order to safeguard their future, they need to fight.”

Anthony Zinni, the retired Marine general who headed “Operation Desert Fox” - a series of strikes against Iraq in December 1998, agrees.

“If you don’t have a strategy, you don’t know what comes next,” Zinni said, arguing that any U.S. military action should be carried out only in the context of a longer-term plan.

Many regional experts make the same point: what would happen after the “limited” U.S. strikes against Syria the administration is considering?

Zinni, for example, warns that U.S. military action will inevitably strengthen rebel factions aligned with al-Qaida that are fighting against the Assad regime forces.

“Any strikes on Assad weaken him,” Zinni said. “When you weaken him, you strengthen the opposition. Those extremists are also part of the opposition.”

Among the scenarios being considered after a U.S. strike would be the Shi'ite militant group, Hezbollah, attacking Western or Israeli targets. Some analysts are also warning that Syrian forces could use even more chemical weapons against rebels and civilians.

As for the reaction of the Arab world to a U.S. military strike on Syria, Zinni says it probably will be mixed.

“The Sunnis might like this - the Shia will not,” Zinni said. “And so you’re going to see a reaction, a negative reaction if you are in Beirut with Hezbollah, or you are an Alawite or even a Christian, because the Alawites and the Christians have worked together in Syria.

“In Saudi Arabia, Jordan and elsewhere predominantly Sunni - you might see a different reaction,” he said. “So I don’t think you can make a general statement regarding what the view or opinion or reaction would be.”

But Zinni says one thing is for sure.

“Once Assad goes, when and if, this could even be a greater mess than it is now,” Zinni continued. “I mean the civil war isn’t over, because it will have an ‘Act Two’ to it.”

And “Act Two,” he explains, is when the Syrian opposition groups fight each other to gain power.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid