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April 16, 2018 8:17 am

Attention Donald Trump: Mission Not Accomplished

avatar by Ron Prosor

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US President Donald Trump. Photo: Screenshot.

JNS.org – The five days that it took the US administration to respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria were vital for two reasons: First, to consolidate a diplomatic coalition with two other UN Security Council member states. Second, to define the military targets that would send a clear message that the use of chemical weapons crosses a red line. And all this without undermining Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and, as a result, changing the rules of the game with Russia.

From a military perspective, the Americans did not need the British and the French to carry out the attack, but the cooperation between the three countries lent the operation political legitimacy, including at the UN Security Council. The attack also sent another important message — that in the year 2018, and in a world of competing narratives, facts still matter. Assad used chemical weapons against his own people last week and it was not for the first time. Period. End of story.

The odd claims by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that the chemical attack on Douma was “fabricated” by a foreign intelligence agency, along with Russia’s sweeping denials that it was behind the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England are indicative of a deeper phenomenon that the world’s democracies will need to address in future conflicts.

According to the words attributed to Abraham Lincoln, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

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While the US airstrikes may well be behind us, the Syrian front continues to heat up. Israel must continue to carefully navigate this front. On the one hand, it must work to prevent Iran from establishing itself militarily on the northern border. On the other hand, it cannot push the limits so far that the Russians decide to position advanced S-300 or S-400 missile batteries in Syria, leaving Israel with little room to maneuver there or in Lebanon.

My greatest fear is that the US airstrikes will be the final act in America’s involvement in Syria. US military action must not conclude with a limited tactical victory. That would only result in a long-term strategic loss for the United States.

The US must maintain and increase its presence in Syria in order to stand up to Russia and stand with its allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the other Persian Gulf states who know that America’s presence in Syria can prevent a Russian and Iranian takeover of the country. This is not just in Israel’s interests, but the interests of the Middle East and the entire world.

Ron Prosor is head of the Abba Eban Chair of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and Israel’s former ambassador to the UN. This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.

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