Great Powers have been meddling in the Middle East at least since World War I. Each meddle has made an impossibly complicated geopolitical mess even more complicated.
Now comes the narcissistic manchild of the west, taking a turn at havoc. The Orange Boy loves toys almost as bigly as he loves himself and seeing his name in large gilt letters. Yesterday, he turned loose 59 of them against Syria, without bothering to consult Congress, as that finicky old Constitution requires. Wheeee! See the bang-bangs. I am sooooo great!
As he intended, he is now the center of attention in the world, basking in the praise of just about everyone except Russia, Iran and a few fuddy-duddies in congress who still think the Founders were serious when they invested war-making powers solely in the legislative branch of government.
What next? is the frightening question now. Things are vastly more complicated than they were a mere two days ago. Then we were wondering what really happened with the chlorine-sarin gas attacks in battered, shattered, civil war-torn Syria.
Orange Boy’s secretary of state, the oil baron Rex Tillerson, who knows where the crude is buried but not the hatchets, assured the world that there is absolute proof that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was behind horrible nerve-gas attack in Idlib. Just as then Secretary of State Colin Powell assured the United Nations, the United States and the world that there was absolute proof that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. (False). Just as the Obama administration assured everyone in 2013 that Assad had used banned nerve gas in an assault on his own people. (False).
Tillerson’s proof consists of radar video, not yet released to the public, clearly showing planes taking off from a Syrian air force base and dropping bombs on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib, a province in northern Syria controlled by an alliance of rebel groups, including a powerful faction linked to al-Qaeda. Tillerson says the projectiles the aircraft dropped contained the deadly, banned gas. Russia says they were conventional bombs that hit a building where the rebels had stored the gas.
The air force base that Orange Boy’s toys targeted is 67 miles from Khan Sheikhoun. We are told today that our military gave the Russian military advance notice of the strike. Even so, some Russians soldiers were still there when the cruise missiles hit. Syrian sources said only 26 of the missiles reached their targets. Does it matter how many? Seven people were reported killed in the strike. One of them may have been Russian.
Today, Russia responded by announcing it would beef up its aerial presence and aerial defense support in Syria. The Kremlin suspended a 2015 memorandum of understanding to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents between United States and Russian military aircraft operating over Syria. That could lead to big trouble. It was Russia’s military assistance that enabled the Assad government to turn the tide in the six-year-old civil war. It was, inch by inch, village by village, winning that war when the poison gas incident occurred. Why, then, would Assad risk everything, outraging the world by killing civilians and children with outlawed chemical weaponry that he had promised to destroy? Doing so, an Iranian political analyst named Mosib Na’imi said yesterday, “would be a crazy move” under the circumstances.
But crazy is normal in the Middle East.
Somebody loosed the nerve gas on civilians. Horrid pictures of dead and suffering children were on TV.
Orange Boy doesn’t read. He gets his information from the TV. His generals offered him a range of options — including one that called for firm insistence that Russia make good on its 2013 deal, with the implied threat of future military action against Assad.
Orange Boy chose instead to make bang-bang with his big, bad toys.
Now the world cringes. Its diplomats and generals and political leaders ask themselves, what next in the Middle East?