By Charlotte Molloy
Last night, Donald Trump, Theresa May, and Emmanuel Macron launched over thirty non-nuclear missiles at three alleged chemical weapons research facilities in Syria. Although they didn’t consult their governments about it first, the three leaders are insisting their actions were justified. Vladimir Putin has called the air strikes an act of aggression and is convening an emergency meeting of the UN security council to resolve the situation.
Two questions. How did we get here? Also how could all of this potentially lead to a third world war?
So on Wednesday 11th of April 2018, the president of the United States tweeted this:
What is he talking about and why does the mainstream media think this is the start of world war 3?
The “gas killing animal” that Trump is referring to is Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad. Since the Arab Spring in 2011, that disgusting man and his evil regime have been fighting their own people tooth and nail to stay in power. This Syrian civil war has seen thousands of civilians left dead and millions more displaced.
Last weekend, Assad committed his latest crime against humanity by attacking the town of Douma, Syria with a chemical weapon that has left 43 confirmed dead and over 500 poisoned and in urgent need of medical attention.
Whilst this is clearly an unspeakable tragedy and morally Trump’s threats are completely justified, you may ask: how does this situation have the potential to start the third world war? It’s the Syrian civil war, right? Nothing to do with the rest of us, right? Wrong!
As you may have gathered from Trump’s tweet, Assad has a powerful friend: Vladimir Putin. Ya. Here we go again. Since 2015 Russia has been providing military support to help the Syrian dictator exterminate his own people.
The UK based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that between 2015 and 2016 Russian airstrikes killed 1,700 Syrian civilians. Last December, Russian officials announced that they will be establishing a permanent military presence in Syria. As a result, an attack on Assad’s military can mean a direct attack on Russia, which could very well lead to war.
But the Orangutan in Chief makes baseless threats to other people and countries via tweet all the time – what makes this time deadlier? There are two reasons that Trump could very well could follow through with this threat and kick start a global conflict: precedent and motivation.
By precedent I mean that this isn’t the first time that Trump would have reacted to one of Assad’s chemical weapons attacks in Syria with ill thought out and rushed military action. Not only did he launch the air strikes last night, but this time last year, after a similar chemical attack on Syrian civilians by Assad, without warning or consulting his western allies Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles against Assad’s air base at Al Shayrat, Syria.
He’s periodically authorised air strikes against Syria and other countries across the Arab world since taking office. If he’s done it before, he can do it again.
By motivation I mean there are factors both in the United States and internationally that could embolden him to chose military action. Understandably there has been universal condemnation of Assad’s attack on Douma by world leaders and the media.
Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron have even announced they are willing to support a US led attack. With that kind of pressure its easy to see how a man who isn’t known for his level headed decision making and with a flair for threatening power plays might rush to take military action against Assad, and by extension his Russian allies.
Another major motivation that I think could push Trump towards further military action is his very own Russia scandal. In a tweet on the 11th April, Trump made it clear that the Russia investigation is still agitating him considerably:
Although Trump has denied all involvement with the Russians and has branded the ongoing FBI investigation of the matter a “witch hunt” it’s easy to see how Trump taking a strong public stance, and potentially military action, against Assad and Russia might be an attempt to convince the American people that he’s not just Putin’s puppet in Washington.
Basically, whilst we are all hoping Trump doesn’t follow through with his threat and that there are no follow up air strikes to last night’s fiasco, he has both precedent and motivation to do so. If Trump does try to take down Assad it could be seen as a direct attack on Russia.
This could lead to a major war between the western powers and Russia, which judging by the size of our respective nuclear arsenals might only last a couple of minutes – but could wipe every last human from the face of the earth.