The military tension between the US and Russia has visibly escalated over the Syrian issue since last week’s alleged chemical attack on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun. In response to this attack, the US fired as many as 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian military air-base on last Friday. The Russia and Iran have accused the US of ‘crossing the redlines’ by attacking Syria. On the other hand, the US has also criticised Russia for failing to prevent this chemical attack as the Russia was supposed to ensure the seizure of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal under a deal concluded between the two countries in 2013. The current US-Russia conflict would push the war-torn Syria towards further chaos and destabilisation, resulting in adding to the miseries of already-suffering Syrian population. Moreover, the Syrian refugees’ crisis in the world is also likely to be deepened.

The Syrian government has categorically denied its involvement in the recent chemical attack on the rebel-held town in which at least 86 people, including women and children, lost their lives. Russia and Iran have demanded an impartial and ‘non-politicized’ inquiry into this alleged chemical assault. Similarly, France and Britain have also called for an emergency UN Security Council meeting to discuss this suspected attack. A fact Finding Mission of Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is also investigating into this incident. This body is yet not submit it report. However, the US has chosen to unilaterally launch massive airstrikes against the Syrian government without any formal inquiry or UN authorization.

After 2015 Paris attacks, the UNSC council authorized a global military campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq through its resolution 2249. However, no country in the world, including the US, seriously bothered to take a decisive military action against the ISIS activists there. Now the US has instantly and strongly responded to the recent chemical attack in Syria. This essentially shows the super power usually acts in unilateral and arbitrary fashion while articulating and achieving its strategic objectives in the world. The latest US airstrikes in Syria have also left 15 civilians dead. It is very unfortunate that the US always terms the casualties in consequence of its own military actions abroad the ‘collateral damage’, while readily declares the causalities in consequence of opponents’ action as the ‘war crimes’. In fact, both the collateral damage and the war crimes are harmful and equally condemnable.

At present, the Syrian government and its allies are succeeding against their opponents in Syria. They have retrieved the strategically-important city of Aleppo from the rebels. Now the rebels are withdrawing from their strongholds in Syria. At this time, the Syria hardly needs to use controversial chemical weapons to the annoyance of entire world community. On the other hand, the US current military campaign against the Assad regime will only strengthen the Anti-Assad rebels and terrorist outfits in Syria. They may re-consolidate their positions in the country. At this stage, the US should support the Syrian government to crush militant-cum-terrorist groups there. So one wonders whether the US is actually opposing or supporting the terrorism in this region. The video clips of the recent chemical attack in Syria went instantly viral. Later, we saw the US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley holding the photographs of chemical attack victims at the UN headquarters in New York. She has declared that the regime change in Syria is now Trump administration’s top priority. So finally the cat is out of the bag. The incumbent Trump administration simply sticks to Obama’s Syrian policy for achieving the broader US strategic goals in the region after toppling the Assad regime in Syria.

The phenomenon of ‘regime change’ essentially involves some covert and overt actions aimed at altering, replacing and preserving foreign governments. Over a period of time, this phenomenon has become an important component of the US foreign policy in the world. The US intelligence agency CIA has been instrumental in helping achieve this foreign policy objective globally. After the World War II, the US has toppled a number of undesirable regimes across the world. This term was particularly popularised during the presidency of George W Bush with reference to the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. In fact, the very act of ‘regime change’ is by no means allowable in International law. Article 2(4) of UN Charter strictly prohibits its member states from interfering in the internal affairs of other states through the threat or use of force. Unfortunately, the US hardly bothers about international law and morality while pursuing its global objectives.

Obviously the Bashar al-Assad rule in Syria is not ideally prefect if we judge it on purely a democratic touchstone. However, he has been the de facto head of the state of Syria since 2000. The people of Syria twice approved him as president through two consecutive referendums. Moreover, the overwhelming majority in Syria also elected him in the first presidential contested elections in 2014. Surely, it is not the US but the people of Syria that have the right to decide their own political future. The political aspirations of the Syrian people must be respected. Therefore, instead of employing coercive measures against Assad regime, the people of Syria should be allowed to decide the fate of Bashar al-Assad through a political process. Certainly, the world community can play its role to ensure free and fair political transition in Syria. In fact, it is not the Syria alone, but all Gulf countries need genuine democratisation. Singling the Bashar al-Assad out in the Middle East is not justified.

The strong opposition posed by Russia and Iran deterred the US from toppling the pro-Iran government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria through military force in 2013. Strangely, no sooner the US abandoned this plan than there instantly emerged the militant outfit ISIS to accomplish same task in Syria. This organised and well-equipped militant outfit mysteriously emerged on the Middle Eastern landscape, apparently to serve American interests in the region. Now, since this terror outfit is withdrawing from the Syria after being defeated by the Syrian armed forces and their allies, the US has once again actively come forward to execute its original plan of toppling the Assad regime. Nor will it help setting things right in the region.

Syria has been paying a high price for the intended US plan to change the Assad regime. Its infrastructure is destroyed. Its economy is devastated. According to a report released by the Syrian Centre for Policy Research in February 2016, the death toll in Syria touched the figure of 470,000, with 1.9 million wounded. A large segment of the Syrian population has been internally displaced. Presently more than 5 million Syrians have taken refuge in various countries in the world.

Once there was a Middle East peace process that aimed at defusing the Arab-Israel tension after amicably resolving the Palestinian-Israeli dispute. However, in the ‘new Middle East’, now Iran’s alleged nuclear program and Bashar al-Assad rule in Syria have become the major issues that are posing a “grave threat to the peace and stability of this region”. The Trump administration has repudiated its own slogan of ‘America First’ by unnecessarily intervening in the Syrian affairs. Certainly, the US government is not justified in uselessly spending the money of American tax payers on similar military expeditions abroad.

The US and other NATO countries should exercise maximum restraint while dealing with the Assad regime in Syria. The use of military force will certainly make things even worse. It would add to miseries of hapless Syria people. The Assad question should be solved politically and through peaceful means as recently recommended by European Union. If a complex issue involving Iran’s nuclear program can be resolved peacefully in the form of a nuclear deal between the P5+1 and Iran, then the Assad question can also be decided through pacific diplomatic means. American hot pursuits and unilateralism will push this volatile region towards further instability and chaos.