A recent declaration by the White House that Bashar al-Assad is planning another chemical attack caught the U.S. military and the U.S. State Department by surprise. The White House indicated that the Syrian President would pay a “heavy price” if such an attack were to take place.
This was unusual, because statements are normally sent through diplomatic channels versus being made public. Russia would have been the obvious choice to use as a conduit. Instead, Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., charged that the chemical attack “will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia and Iran who support him in killing his own people.”
Accusations and threats have been issuing from Trump’s White House regarding Syria steadily. Over the past couple of months, the U.S. hasn’t limited it to just talk. They shot down a regime jet as well as two Iranian-supplied drones. American warplanes have bombed regime forces on no less than four different occasions.
This is a contrast from the Obama administration, who failed to take military action in Syria, despite the chemical attack in 2013. While it seems that this new President is more aggressive on the issue of Syria, his real target seems to be Iran, particularly the Iranian regime.
There has been no information released by the U.S. administration to back up its claim of another chemical attack by Assad, but further conflict with Assad’s regime is likely to lead to direct confrontation of troops on the ground.
Trump, however, has spent most of his time in the Middle East focusing on Iran. Just days after Rouhani was reelected, Trump called Iran an exporter of terrorism. He then called for an alliance between Israel and Sunni Gulf states against Iran. But the Sunni bloc has recently started to fracture over the current blockade against Qatar, who has maintained relations with Iran.
Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council, told administration officials that he wanted the U.S. intelligence agencies to bring down the Iranian government.
According to White House officials, “Trump administration officials are planning for the next stage of the war, a complex fight that will bring them into direct conflict with the Syrian government and Iranian forces contesting control of a vast desert stretch in the eastern part of the country.”
Still others are against that type of move, arguing that the main objective should remain ISIS, not creating another war front, this time with Iran. Additionally, that would mean conflict with Russia, who is tracking Western warplanes in the Syrian skies and who has also been an ally of Assad. They argue that no such chemical attack is planned, but that current actions by the U.S. could be deemed provocation.
Where the U.S. chooses to take this foreign policy is still unclear, but what is perfectly apparent is that the U.S. administration is gunning for a new regime in Iran.