Last week, on 7 April 2017, the US launched a cruise missiles attack on Syria’s Shayrat airfield. As the New York Times reported, the missile strike targeted a Syrian airbase, which was allegedly perceived as the place where the chemical attack was launched that left over 86 civilians dead. Despite the bombardment, the aim was to demolish the targeted airbases’ military equipment, and a total of 14 peoples died, including 9 civilians.
According to different media outlets, this is first direct military attack by the US against Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which has generated a sharply divided position amongst the world leaders and has made Trump’s foreign policy strategy on national security even more confusing. Moreover, the question of the “legality and purpose” of the attack has also arisen behind the scene.
President Donald Trump justified the missile strike on the Syrian airbase as a “…vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” However, world leaders have reacted, and they are generally of the opposite position due to their particular national interests. While the US’s close allies, such as the European states, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Japan, and so on applauded the measure as something that was “long overdue,” other traditional US rival powers, such as Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China strongly opposed the strike and viewed it as “an aggression.” President Bashar al-Assad, himself, said the US’s allegation of the chemical attack is “a 100 percent fabrication.”
The situation is considered to be new fuel, which will likely deepen the existing US-Russia strains and the tension with the Middle East. Russia, together with Iran have directly threatened Washington to react forcefully if such attacks continue. The US, for its part, accused Russia of being involved with the chemical attack. The G7 also met in Italy to show a united action against Russia, though they failed to reach an agreement on the proposed sanction “as a British plan to impose targeted sanctions on military personnel in Russia and Syria, supported by the US, was rejected by European allies.”
The violation of Syrian sovereignty is another concern for opponents and observers who viewed Trump’s action from an international law perspective. The US attack on Syria is, in fact, a unilateral intervention, which is neither justified as a self-defense nor a UN Security Council-authorized humanitarian intervention. As such, the measures taken by the US were a blatant breach of international law.
The question of Trump’s foreign policy on national security is another issue that arises out of the missile attack. For instance, there are pressing issues about whether the current involvement of is part of his coherent foreign policy or not because President Trump was the one who discouraged any action in Syria during his Campaign and he was the one who sought to restrict the US’s role in ‘outside’ affairs, which was illustrated by his motto “America First.” However, this new development in relation to his action against Syria raises questions about whether President Trump is changing his foreign policy.