A one-time shot at Syria? Don’t place any bets on it

As missiles launched by the United States, Great Britain and France rained down on Syria Friday, the rest of the world was left wondering: What will happen next?

Actually, Matt Kwong of the CBC asked just that question in an article posted on the CBC News website Saturday morning.

“The U.S.-European operation was broader than last year’s, hitting three targets rather than one Syrian air base. It was bolder, too, striking near the more densely populated capital of Damascus, after the regime unleashed a suspected chemical weapons attack on its citizens last weekend,” Kwong writes. 

“And, as U.S. President Donald Trump said in an address on Friday evening, it was to be part of a “sustained response” strategy,” Kwong went on. “Or maybe not.”

That “maybe” is a scary word.

Kwong believes Trump and his Defence Secretary General James Mattis may not know what happens next.

“…experts say it’s not a protracted war the Trump administration is waging — it was a 17-minute military “operation” to deter illegal chemical warfare,” Kwong writes. “And now it’s over. Even so, the conflicting descriptions of the plan by Mattis and Trump point to another concern: that there may not be any long-term strategy for Syria.”

How can any opposing force have any plan to deal with the out-of-control Syrian leader, who is being accused of waging war against his own people?

“The U.S.-led precision strikes on Syria, conducted around 4 a.m. local time on Saturday with British and French allies, doubled the size of last year’s launching of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat air base,” Kwong writes. “The most recent missile strikes targeted a scientific research centre for producing weapons, a part of a military command post, and a facility used for making the nerve agent sarin gas.”

Trump said it was an attack that had to be carried out.

“Today, the nations of Britain, France and the United States of America have marshalled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality,” Trump said within moments of the attack.

“Beyond his tough words, though, was a restrained order that critics say lacks a master plan,” Kwong writes.

So what is the plan? Is there a plan? And what does Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have to say about it all and about the latest attack on Syria?

“We were apprised in advance of the operation,” Trudeau told reporters at the end of a three-day visit to Peru. “We were very supportive. And there was no request for Canada to join as part of that operation.”

And what would Trudeau have done if there was a request to participate? Well, he already said earlier in the week, he didn’t want Canada dragged into it.

“We are not looking to be present in Syria,” Trudeau said an interview with Radio-Canada.

The prime minister explained that Canada is already engaged in the fight against the Islamic State in northern Iraq, and in operations in Mali and Latvia.

“But we are providing humanitarian aid,” Trudeau said of Syria. “We are working diplomatically and politically to try to find solutions.”

“Diplomatically?” Oh oh, how much is it going to cost Canadian taxpayers this time? It was almost exactly a year ago, when Trudeau announced $840 million in humanitarian aid to Syria after an attack on its people in April of 2017.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the chemical weapon attack in Syria shocking and appalling,” a Global News story at the time read.  “Trudeau said in order to find and hold the perpetrators (to) account for their actions, Canada is supporting evidence gathering and will provide $840 million worth of life-saving humanitarian and development assistance.”

So open the seemingly bottomless Government of Canada bank accounts again. Even at $1.4 trillion in debt (and counting), the Trudeau government will no doubt be spending some more money to help out in this crisis.

Meanwhile, Trudeau is also scheduled yesterday to meet with the premiers of British Columbia (John Horgan) and Alberta (Rachel Notley) to try and iron out differences in a dispute surrounding the Trans-Mountain pipeline project.

The CBC article suggests there’s little chance Trudeau will be able to extract a deal out of that meeting. 

So could Trudeau open up Canada’s bank account for the pipeline battles, too?

Sometimes, even Trudeau may have to admit, his seemingly unending access to money (even with the country close to $1.4 trillion in debt) won’t solve all the world’s or even all the country’s problems. Maybe, just maybe, the prime minister will have to think his way out of the two problems. Oh, oh…do we really want him doing that?

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Jeff Wilkinson

About the Author: Jeff Wilkinson

Jeff Wilkinson is a retired Canadian journalist who covered a wide range of political stories over a 35-year career in newspapers and radio. He was at Place du Canada in Montreal in 1995 for the Unity rally on the eve of the Quebec referendum. He interviewed former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and numerous cabinet ministers, provincial premiers and many other key political figures both provincially and federally. Most recently he served in the Press Operations Crews at the 2015 Pan Am Games and 2017 Invictus Games.
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