President Trump tweeted last Wednesday: “Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia, because they will be coming, nice and new and ‘smart!’ You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”
As a result, America and its allies launched airstrikes on Saturday against chemical agent plants, research centers and storage facilities in Syria, particularly around its capital of Damascus. Multiple sites were pelted by coalition forces with around 103 missiles, though the Russia Defense Ministry said Syria’s Soviet-made air defense systems shot down at least 12 cruise missiles aimed at Dumayr air base east of Damascus.
In response, Russia called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting Saturday as the Kremlin retorted it might now supply S-300 missile systems to Syria, like it had recently done for Iran. (For those who might not know, Russia has supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with military aid since the beginning of the conflict in 2011, and military involvement since 2015.)
The joint attack by U.S., British and French forces was in retaliation for the internationally banned chemical attack by Assad’s forces that killed at least 43 people and injured others (including children) earlier this week in the town of Douma, 27 minutes northeast of Damascus.
While Russia says the Syrian chemical attack was staged by Great Britain and White Helmet, officially known as Syrian Civil Defense, the Kremlin further stated it had statements from medics in Douma’s hospital that said all those who died had no symptoms of chemical poisoning.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley vehemently rejected Moscow’s denials, saying Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons at least 50 times during his country’s seven-year-long civil war. (Of course, this latest chemical attack ratchets the already-high tension between Moscow and America’s allies since Britain blamed Russia for a nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter a month ago.)
Syria is a continued powder keg about to blow, primarily because its military and control centers are managed in different areas by a host of opposing forces: Assad, Russia, America, Iran and its proxies, Kurds, ISIS, Al-Nusra (also described as al-Qaida in Syria) and other rebels.
Add to that toxic warfare cocktail the fact that Syria borders on the northern edge of its enemy Israel, which, two days after the chemical agent attack on Douma, bombed a Syrian airbase and killed seven elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards among others of Assad’s forces. The strike was Israel’s response to an Iranian drone armed with explosives that flew into the Holy Land from the Syrian airbase. (According to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah fighters are posted at the T-4 airbase.)
This was the second time in only two months that Israel has struck back at the T-4 airbase. Another Iranian drone took off from the very same airfield on Feb. 10, entering Israeli airspace near the Jordan Valley. When Israel retaliated, Syrian anti-aircraft fire downed an Israeli fighter jet for the first time since 1982.
Israel’s retaliation prompted the head of Lebanon’s Tehran-backed Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, to warn in a televised address this week, “The Israelis committed a historic mistake … and put themselves in direct combat with Iran.”
As far as Tehran’s response to the joint U.S.-British-France attack against chemical weapon installations on Saturday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech posted on his website: “Today’s morning attack on Syria is a crime. I explicitly announce that the U.S. president, French president and the British prime minister are criminals and have committed crime.”
Could this toxic volatile Syrian soup get any worse? Could it launch World War III or a massive Middle East war like Armageddon, the final epic battle of all human wars?
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres explained that the Middle East is in great “peril,” and that Syria represents “the most serious threat” that could easily tip the scale toward “escalation, fragmentation and division as far as the eye can see with profound regional and global ramifications.”
That is why former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice warned a few years ago: “the civil war in Syria may well be the last act in the story of the disintegration of the Middle East as we know it.”
Former U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper took it one step further in 2014 when he explained to the Senate that the war in Syria had created an “apocalyptic disaster.”
Let me remind my readers that Damascus is merely 136 miles away as the crow flies to Jerusalem, and only 91 miles from Megiddo, from which Armageddon gets its name in the Bible. What are the odds that such a location could have been predicted 2,000 years ago as the final stage of global war?
One thing is clear: We need to pray more for our president, other global leaders, the Syrian conflict and the peace of Jerusalem. (Please mark Thursday, May 3, on your calendar – the National Day of Prayer – and join millions of others to pray for our country and world. How timely is its theme of “Unity.”)
Regarding our own president, as Pat Buchanan concluded his column this past week: “[Trump] will have to decide by May 12 whether the U.S. walks away from the Iran nuclear deal. On May 15, comes the formal move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, the 70th anniversary of the birth of Israel and of the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe,’ of the Palestinians, and the culmination of the Friday protests in Gaza that have turned so bloody.”
I agree with Buchanan’s final words: “We and Mr. Trump are heading into interesting times.”