President Trump’s decision to target the Syrian airfields used to carry out Tuesday’s horrific chemical attacks may mark a major change in the direction of the six-year-old Syrian civil war. At the very least, it was a welcome break from the previous administration’s penchant to let Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad off the hook for his war crimes. Still, it will be interesting to see how Trump’s Syrian missile strikes affect tensions with Iran.
In 2013, Assad staged a similar chemical bomb raid against a Damascus suburb. But Obama refrained from taking firm action and instead decided to stay on the sidelines and back off from his “red lines.” The main beneficiaries of this hands-off approach were the Assad regime and Assad’s patrons in Tehran. Assad got away with murder and the Iranian regime got the green light to relentlessly increase its violent meddling in Syria.
Since then, the situation has been on the constant decline. Iran and Assad’s unchecked rampage exacerbated sectarian tensions, killing thousands more and creating the perfect breeding ground for extremist groups such as Islamic State to rise and flourish.