A balanced and determined message

The American-French-British military attack in Syria is a wise and worthy strategic move. A resolute and proportionate American response, its physical results are not important. The move was more extensive, in terms of the number of missiles fired, than the US strike in early 2017, and wider in terms of the number of targets. At the same time, the intensity of the strikes on all targets was lower. The attack was carried out close to effective Israeli strikes in recent weeks against Iranian infrastructure in Syria. The move will mainly yield positive strategic results for the US and its president, Donald Trump. The move will yield positive results for Israel as well, but I will not elaborate on that too much.

The first result is a further confirmation of how the American president stands by his word. (I will mention Trump’s tweet in response to the Russian threat – prior to the attack – that the American missiles will be intercepted, in which he said that “nice and smart” missiles were on their way to Syria… and indeed they arrived.)

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A second result is a message to Iran, North Korea and Russia that the US can decide to intervene to maintain its strategic interests in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. This is in contrast to president Barack Obama’s policy. This message also improves the position of Israel, which is perceived as a US ally and an American interest in the region.

Another result is a message to North Korea: the US seriously intends to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear weapons, by military intervention if necessary. This move casts doubt on the negotiations that are supposed to begin at a meeting between Trump and the president of North Korea in May.

In addition, the joint attack by the Western powers in Syria conveys the ability to unite around a strategic goal and carry out a joint military offensive, and to do it within a relatively reasonable period.

The handling of the nuclear agreement with Iran also receives support from the attack. In the attack there was a spark of Western cooperation that could influence the determined American handling of the agreement. There is also a message to Iran that America’s determination with regard to the agreement will be different than in the past.

In my best estimate, Syrian President Bashar Assad and his chemical attacks do not interest the Americans. They do not see themselves as the guardians of world justice. They exploited the situation to send messages to their “enemies and opponents,” because the US is not the same superpower that it was in the Obama era when it comes to safeguarding its interests. Its “enemies” are North Korea and Iran, and its “opponents” are Russia and even China. (I estimate that China will also draw lessons from the attack, especially in the context of Korea).

In conclusion, the aggregate and most important message of the move is that at the head of the White House is a person who keeps his promises and backs up his threats. This is a refreshing change in American politics. Trump’s demonstration that he stands by his word is tremendously important since Congress is hostile to him, and it could have been thought that as a result the president would not be able to act strategically and effectively.

Even on this latest attack in Syria it was claimed Trump would have to get Congress’s approval. It is clear that a process of congressional approval would have hindered the operation. The significance of the president’s determination, leadership and steadfastness in standing by his word, together with Israel’s determination to prevent an Iranian military presence in Syria and Lebanon, creates deterrence and the ability to deal with the central issues facing the US. The likelihood of fulfilling tasks such as neutralizing North Korea’s nuclear weapons, reaching a significant amendment of the nuclear agreement with Iran and safeguarding American interests in the Middle East, is growing. The combination of American determination and Israeli determination can also fortify our strategic position.

The author is a IDF brigadier-general in the reserves and a member of the Association of Reserve Officers for Israel.