by Prof. Eyal Zisser
The important thing is that after the American attack it is now clear to everyone, including Assad, that his fate and the fate of Syria are no longer in his hands. More importantly, they are also no longer in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The American airstrike in Syria has sent U.S. President Donald Trump's stock soaring in the Arab world. No American president in years has been thanked, let alone praised or encouraged, by the Arabs the way that Trump has been these past few days. Messages of support are flooding in from Arab states and even social media users, who are imploring him to keep it up and not stop until order and balance -- not to mention stability -- are restored in Syria and the region.
But in truth, the American attack was limited in terms of scope and targets, which is why it managed to achieve its main goal of punishing the Syrian tyrant for using chemical weapons against his own people. But if this attack remains an isolated, pinpoint event, it will not be enough to change the direction of the Syrian war. Syrian President Bashar Assad can easily take the American punch. He has lost many airfields to the rebels over the course of the six-year war, and every day dozens of his soldiers die in battle. So for him, the American attack is yet another glancing blow he can survive and even live with. If he is smart and refrains from responding, just like he has every time he's been attacked by Israel, he can go on and, with the help of his Russian and Iranian friends, continue killing his people -- as long as he sticks to conventional weapons.
But the important thing is that after the American attack it is now clear to everyone, including Assad, that his fate and the fate of Syria are no longer in his hands. More importantly, they are also no longer in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump is holding the keys. If he wants, he can keep attacking Syria, and maybe even change the course of the war. Alternately, if he wants to, he can let Assad remain in power.
One of the main victims of Trump's attack in Syria is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Barack Obama, who explained back in the day that American action in Syria would require hundreds of thousands of American soldiers and trillions of dollars. Trump used a mere 59 Tomahawk missiles to carry out an important action that will stop the regime from using chemical weapons.
Another victim of the attack is Putin, whom Trump exposed as a paper tiger. After all, Russia is a big, strong country, but it certainly doesn't measure up to a superpower like the U.S. in terms of strength or capabilities.
Every Arab in the Middle East now understands that. When it looked like Obama was pulling out of the region and it was doubtful whether he would come to the aid of his allies, everyone wanted to cozy up to Putin, who was smart enough to fill the vacuum left by Obama's America. But now Trump has a chance to restore the U.S.'s status as the leading superpower in the region. Trump still has the war against the Islamic State group ahead of him, but if he demonstrates the same kind of determination he showed with last week's attack, he can make significant inroads on that front, too, without any help from the Russians, who aren't fighting Islamic State anyway.
There is a new sheriff in town and the residents, or at least Arab leaders and major sectors of the Arab public, aren't hiding their satisfaction and their hope that the new sheriff will punish Assad for his murderousness, as well as deter Iran.
Prof. Eyal Zisser
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