Syria’s civil war has been raging for more than six years, claiming the lives of an estimated 470,000 people, about half of them civilians.
Earlier this month, the U.S. engaged in the first direct military action against Syria when President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike on a Syrian airbase. The U.S. airstrike came two days after a deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town that killed at least 58 people, including numerous children. The U.S. missiles targeted Shayrat Airbase, from which the chemical weapons were launched.
While many international analysts say the president’s action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad was justified, SDSU public affairs and political science lecturer Ric Epps says that doesn’t necessarily mean President Trump has a strategy when it comes to Syria.
“Originally, what a lot of people were saying, is that the president saw the pictures of Syrian babies in the hospital and his response was based on emotion,” Epps told KNSD. “If that really was the catalyst, that’s not always a bad thing, but on the other hand, do you really want someone of his caliber to make an emotional decision?”
The U.S. launched nearly 60 tomahawk missiles onto the Shayrat Airbase, which is shared with Russian troops, raising questions about whether or not Russia knew about the existence of the chemical weapons.
While no Russian troops were hurt in the U.S. attack, Epps said it could lead to tensions between Washington and Moscow.
“I would say that doing it in the way the president did, could become very complicated without talking to our allies and going through the proper channels to make sure that diplomacy was not going to work before committing these types of actions,” Epps said during an interview with KSWB. “That’s pretty unprecedented for an American president.”
Russia was one of the few nations to condemn the recent U.S. airstrike. The Kremlin called the attack an act of aggression and a violation of international law.
Because of the strong ties between Syria and Russia, Epps believes the airstrike could have bigger implications on the world stage.
“We’re setting ourselves up for a potential long-term engagement, whether it ends up being a major war, or even a proxy war with Russia, pitting groups against each other,” Epps said during the interview with KNSD.
Epps is skeptical about flat-out removing Assad, despite his laundry list of alleged crimes against civilians. Epps says it could open the door to other, potentially more dangerous groups, including ISIS.
“If you take apart the Assad regime and allow one of the opposition groups to come to power, what do you do after? Now you have a situation where you have opposition groups that also have internal issues, meaning if you allow one of them to come to power, they may also start to oppress their own people and that brings you back to what you started with to what we see around the region, which is instability and civil war,” Epps told KSWB.