On April 6 2017, President Donald Trump ordered a missile strike on Syria as a response to a chemical attack allegedly orchestrated by the Assad regime. The attack occurred in rebel-held territory and some reports have put the death toll at around 70. The Syrian government has denied responsibility for this attack, which has been thoroughly condemned by leaders across the world including the US president. Trump then followed his denouncement of the attack with a strike order. This is the first direct military action taken by the US government against the Assad regime since Syria’s civil war began.
This move could be interpreted as an escalation of US involvement in the on-going Syrian civil war. US officials have announced that the strike was carried out by US warships which fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the airbase that is believed to have housed the warplanes that carried out the chemical attacks. CNN has provided further details about the missiles used. So far, reports suggest six people were killed by this strike.
A meeting of the UN Security Council took place on the day following Trump’s order. The meeting highlighted the fact that Trump’s move had not been unanimously welcomed by the international community. In particular, Russia has expressed strong criticism of Trump’s order. Russia’s deputy U.N. envoy, Vladimir Safronkov, made this statement during the meeting.
“We strongly condemn the illegitimate actions by the U.S. The consequences of this for regional and international stability could be extremely serious.”
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also claimed that this move puts the US directly at odds with Russia, and risks building up to a clash with the Russian military. This poses a stark contrast to Trump’s apparent efforts to build stronger ties with Russia, as he has been vocal about improving collaboration between both countries. It can therefore be said that the chemical attack and its aftermath have created a tense environment in international politics, to say the least.
If you’re wondering how we got here, you’re not alone. With various interpretations of the Syrian crisis, it can be difficult to follow the trajectory of the war, understand who is fighting who and begin to consider a solution to what has now become a full-blown humanitarian crisis. To begin with, you might not even know where Syria is. Let’s start there.
Syria is a country in Western Asia, which shares borders with Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Israel. Its largest city and capital is Damascus. The current conflict we are witnessing in Syria grew from the 2011 Arab Spring protests – a spate of uprisings against political leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. Unlike other governments which fell during this period, the Assad regime was not toppled and has instead been engaged in armed conflict with rebel forces ever since. Al Jazeera has provided the following map illustrating what regions of Syria are controlled by government or rebel forces.
If all this feels like too much information, don’t worry. It’s a very complicated conflict sparked by an intersection of several geo-political factors including (but not limited to) external involvement from other countries. The video below gives a concise summary of the events leading up to Syria’s current predicament.
Six years later, various ceasefires have failed to keep the peace in Syria. The Syrian crisis has also morphed into a severe humanitarian mess due to the huge numbers displaced by the conflict as well as those fleeing the country to seek refuge abroad. We will continue to follow the harrowing developments as we hopefully move towards a resolution of this deepening humanitarian disaster.