Strikes against Syria unwarranted
Since the outbreak of the "Arab Spring" seven years ago, much has changed in the political and security landscape in the Middle East. What has not changed is the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remains persona non grata for the United States and its allies.
On April 14, the US, Britain and France launched dozens of missiles on Syrian targets to "punish" Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons in Douma, the last rebel-held town. There should be zero-tolerance for the use of chemical weapons. However, such unilateral moves, without any evidence of wrongdoing, will neither help the US and its allies achieve their aim of ousting Assad from power or increase the US' influence in the region. Instead, they will only increase the sufferings of the Syrian people and prevent the building of a just and equitable international order.
Syria is an independent country, and its sovereignty should be respected. Given the absence of solid evidence showing chemical weapons were actually used by Assad's force, the US-led military action, which was conducted without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council, was pernicious to the norms governing international relations and against the spirit of the UN Charter.
Despite their attempt to claim the moral high ground, the allies' autocratic military action not only further exacerbated the grievances of the Syrian people, it also dealt a heavy blow to the peace process. This explains why members of the international community have expressed deep disappointment over the strikes.
This is, however, not the first time the US and its allies have circumvented the UN and used force against a sovereign state. In 2003, the US bypassed the UN Security Council and invaded Iraq claiming Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction－a claim that was pure fiction.
Nor is this the first time that Syria has been targeted using the same excuse. Last year, the US bombed a Syrian military base alleging that Assad's forces had used nerve gas that killed civilians in Idlib. On that occasion US and its allies used the same tactic of "striking first" and "investigating and proving later". These actions demonstrate the strategic aim of the US in Syria remains the same: toppling the Assad government, propping up the falling rebel forces in Syria and ending the influence of Russia and Iran in the country.
While the Syrian rebels were still in control of some areas as the fight against the Islamic State terrorists had engrossed much of the energy and attention of the pro-Assad forces last year, the rebels now find it increasingly difficult to counter Assad's forces, backed by Russia and Iran, after the IS lost its strongholds in Syria earlier this year.
While the international investigation into the alleged chemical weapons attack is still under way, the US needs to reflect on its policy in the Middle East.
Unless US President Donald Trump wants to get more deeply involved in the region, US airstrikes are not likely to cause any radical change in the status quo of Syria, let alone help the US achieve its strategic goals there.
Syria is still mired in war and chaos. In recent years, international attempts to ease the Syrian crisis have all failed miserably. Whenever a ray of hope emerged, it was obliterated by those determined to fulfill their interests in the country.
Those who claim to have a stake in the issue should realize that any reckless moves will only aggravate the crisis and dampen international efforts to defuse the crisis and restore peaced and order in the country through political means.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily.