Warning by the Russian President Vladimir Putin that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to the world affairs, it throws light on the prospect of a real possibility of a direct military confrontation between the United States and Russia.
There are enough factors involved that has led to the return of cold war era and as the UN chief stressed that “also with a vengence” and the world is at risk of ”full-blown military escalation”.
The tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats over the poisoning of a former spy in the UK and the sanctions by the United States, the European Union (EU) and other countries and international organisations against Russia over Ukraine and latest sanctions against 24 Russians by US over Moscow’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election have led to the hostility and the diplomatic channels are not working to reset the relations between Moscow and Washington.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has confimed that Moscow is considering to supply its most sophisticated S-300 missile defense system to protect Syria.
The recent intervention by President Donald Trump of halting the plan for new sanctions against Russian companies linked to Syria’s alleged chemical weapons points to the confusion and inconsistent policy of Trump towards Russia and Syria.
This move by Trump assumes importance as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has informed the Security Council that the US troops are “locked and loaded,” ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again,on the contrary, President Trump still wants a White House summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump is also in favour of pulling US troops from Syria within six months and replacing them with troops from Egypt, Qatar and United Arab Emirates. If the troops from Arab countries will be sent to Syria then the already perilously complicated Syria battle will be escalated into a full blown war.
A classified briefing to the Senate by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, suggests that Trump’s determination to withdraw has hardened despite lobbying by French President Emmanuel Macron and other proponents of a longer commitment in the war-torn country. But top Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, said that the decision will enhance Russian influence in the country and set the stage for a conflict between Israel and Saudi on one side and Iran on the other side.
The ongoing conflict in Syria and the intervention by Western powers in the strategic Middle East shows that the crisis will linger on for decades to come. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the U.S. entered into several ongoing overseas conflicts, beginning with the invasion of Afghanistan. The removal of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Muammer Gaddafi of Libya unsettled a traditional balance of power in the region.
The US launched military intervention to safeguard its strategic interests and to counter the rise of regional powers. After 2003 Iraq war, Arab power and its influence started diminishing as Iran expanded its influence in Iraq and the Middle East. Under Ahmadinejad, Iran asserted its supremacy in the wider region.
The Arab spring that began in 2011 in Middle East created a fluid situation and US supported pro-democracy movements that led to the removal of President Ben Ali in Tunisia and Muammar Gaddhafi in Libya. Saudi Arabia saw an opportunity for regime change in Syria where the Alawite regime of Basher al Assad had enjoyed Iranian support. US and its allies supported anti Assad forces with arms, imparting training to achieve their strategic interests of curtailing the Shiite Iranian influence and installing the pro-American and pro-Sunni leaders in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Russia started played an active role in challenging traditional domains of US influence and even emerged as a key player in Syria and in September 2015,the Russian military intervened in the Syrian Civil War for supplying military aid against rebel and jihadist groups.
Iraq’s descent into sectarian strife in 2006 reverberated into a number of states in the region, thus stoking social tensions.
Taking into account the current dynamics, the strikes have given a jolt to any political negotiations to end the seven-year conflict in Syria.
Russia is of the view that US must have waited for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspection before military strikes. Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a telephone conversation to stress the importance of thorough and impartial investigation to be conducted by the OPCW mission in Syria.
Thus, the civil wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq should be resolved peacefully otherwise terrorism in the form of ISIS would take recruits from refugees and the regional crisis will be escalated to a full blown global war among the competitive alliances led by US and Russia.