The looming question is should there be a military response to the recent gas attacks that killed over a thousand civilians in Syria. The US says it knows beyond a doubt that the Assad regime was responsible for the gas attack, although hasn’t revealed this proof, and wants to make a statement that chemical weapons are not allowed by attacking, well, something. That’s secret too. The consequences of such action are unpredictable and some major US political figures have warned that it could open the road to violent retaliation against US interests and against Syria’s neighbors, like Turkey. The consequences of several years of international inaction are also clear: over 100,000 Syrians dead, many of them civilians, millions of refugees, increasing Shia-Sunni sectarianism in a conflict that was originally between the Syrian government and pro-democracy citizens of many stripes, major powers taking sides along this sectarian divide (e.g. Iran versus Saudi Arabia) and sending in their proxies (Hezbollah versus al-Nusra) to fight their regional power struggle on Syrian soil. Let’s add destabilization of the countries around Syria to the mix.
After all of this, what is the rationale of a military strike right now when any addition to the devil’s brew in Syria would be like adding a spark to nitroglycerine? Action would have been useful early on, before everything spiraled out of control, but now, after all this, the argument that we need to bomb a few assets of the Assad regime simply to make a point sounds rather grotesque.
A few months ago I spoke to a Turkish MP from Hatay about the al-Nusra and al-Qaeda presence in Turkey. These militants live and operate freely on the Turkish side of the border and are protected and supported by Turkish security services. It is a great source of concern for local residents, both Sunni and Alevi. They are afraid of these foreign fighters in their midst and accuse them of building bombs in their basements. What the Turks justifiably worry about most is, if the US attacks Syria, it will give everyone and their brother the justification to attack everyone else and their brother. A Sarin attack on Turkey? In the ensuing maelstrom, who’s to know the origin?