A piece from my recent blog entry on the subject. http://mecasr.blogspot.com/
Much has been written about since Monday about a potential military strike by US-led forces against the Syrian regime in response for its alleged 21 August Sarin gas attack against a rebel held area of Damascus. Indeed, an attack scenario is getting major momentum in the media and this is likely to filter up to the main levers of power. The West has, essentially, convinced itself that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in Ghouta on that fateful night, yet conclusive evidence has yet to be produced and the West, should they intervene at this exact moment, would only be doing so with a prima facie case of misconduct. Does the Syrian regime deserve to be punished for this crime? That is uncertain.
Should the West intervene it is likely to take the form of ship-based missile attacks or air strikes. The US has naval assets in the Mediterranean (four destroyers) and two carriers nearby (Arabian Sea). It also has an air capability at Bagram Airbase in Turkey and in Jordan not to mention its numerous other facilities across the Middle East. A land option is currently unavailable to the West give the logistics involved. Any initial missile/air attack would need to subdue Syria’s existing air-defence systems before further air strikes. Following these events strikes would likely target suspect chemical weapons stores or production plants and symbolic military and state facilities. The likelihood of a successful completion of this mission is high given the US’ technological superiority.
Syria has already responded to the impending strike by scattering its forces so the immediate impact of the strikes will be lessened and its conventional force is unlikely to be destroyed. Following any strike it will then retaliate. Its intelligence services will initiate a violence campaign in Lebanon in an attempt to stoke sectarian tensions. Scud attacks targeting Israel are likely while limited operations against US forces in the region, particularly those in Turkey and Jordan are a possibility. Rebels in Syria may also be encourage to launch fresh offensives coinciding with the air strikes. Likely escalation areas include those in and around Aleppo, Damascus and Idlib.
Any attack by the West will achieve little on the battlefield. At the negotiation table the attack may also serve to further harden Syria’s already belligerent attitude undermining any possible peace talks. This outcome is already the most likely under the current circumstances, it should be noted. There is a possibility, however, that a sustained air campaign by the West, that essentially suppresses the Syrian air capability, one of the keys to its continued survival, will force the regime to accept a compromise. The question here is, does the US and its allies have the appetite for a sustained campaign? Time will tell.
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