DAMASCUS — Early Friday morning – in a move that would have made his former electoral opponent Hillary Clinton proud – President Donald Trump launched airstrikes targeting a Syrian government military base that targets Daesh. According to Trump, the attack was a response to allegations that the Syrian government was responsible for a chemical weapons attack that took place in Syria’s Idlib Province on Tuesday.
Like so many other past examples of U.S. unilateral military action abroad, the Trump administration failed to wait for the chemical weapons attack to be independently confirmed or investigated, instead opting to use the words of two unreliable pro-regime change sources, with one working directly with al-Qaeda, as justification for this drastic escalation of U.S. involvement in Syria’s six-year-long civil war.
Though the airstrikes were largely ineffective – with less than half of the airstrikes’ 59 missiles actually hitting their targets – it has drastically changed the situation in Syria. While most media outlets are focusing on Russia’s strong response to the U.S.’ aggressive actions against Syria, little attention has been paid to the major advances that anti-Assad terrorist groups have made in the hours since the strikes took place.
According to a Syrian military source who spoke to Al-Masdar, Daesh launched a massive offensive against Syrian government-held locations in the strategic town of Al-Furqalas, less than 20 miles from the Shayrat Air Base that was targeted by the U.S. airstrikes early Friday morning.
Daesh allegedly began the assault shortly after the strikes were authorized. Though the foreign-funded terrorist group has yet to make any territorial gains, they were allegedly motivated to carry out the attack against pro-government forces after the strikes were over to ensure that they would not face retaliation from the air. Reports have also surfaced that Daesh and al-Qaeda affiliates that are active in Syria have praised the Trump-ordered airstrikes.
Due to similar incidents in the past, there is also the possibility that Daesh may have had prior knowledge that the airstrikes would be taking place, giving them the time needed to prepare a major offensive on such short notice. While the airstrikes represent the first “intentional” U.S. attack on the Syrian military, previous “accidental” airstrikes with remarkably similar consequences suggest that Daesh knew about the strike in advance.
In September of last year, a tenuous ceasefire between pro-government and anti-Assad forces was all but destroyed when U.S. coalition jets “accidentally” bombed a Syrian air base in Deir ez-Zor, killing 62 Syrian soldiers and wounding countless others. While the U.S. apologized to Syria’s government and insisted it was a mistake, Daesh launched an offensive almost immediately after the strike and overtook the air base, as well as much of the surrounding area.
At the time, it was noted that the timing of their offensive suggested prior knowledge of the attack. Proof of this theory emerged a few weeks later, when Damascus acquired recordings of conversations between the U.S. military and Daesh prior to the airstrike, leading Damascus to condemn the “accident” as intentional and call the U.S. government “an accomplice” to Daesh.
In a sad twist of fate, 33 people were killed execution-style in Deir ez-Zor – the very city that Daesh took last year with “accidental” help from the U.S. – just hours before the Friday airstrikes and Daesh offensive. Despite the barbarity of this attack, the Trump administration has stayed focused on its goal of ousting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, despite prior promises that the U.S. would only take military action against Daesh and other terrorists in Syria.
Considering that the air base Trump bombed is recognized as “one of the most important bases in the fight against ISIS,” long-standing allegations that the U.S. is operating as Daesh’s air force are only gaining traction. The timing of this drastic escalation is particularly beneficial for Daesh, as Syrian troops were set to advance on the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa in the coming weeks, but will likely now be distracted by the promise of heightened U.S. military involvement within their country.
In addition, recent meetings between Senator John McCain and the Syrian “opposition,” along with massive U.S. troop deployments into Syria and calls for the creation of “safe zones,” suggest that this attack was timed to benefit the West’s long-standing goal of regime change in Syria – a goal that Trump strongly opposed prior to becoming president. While many of Trump’s anti-war supporters are notably disillusioned by the president’s actions, in the eyes of neo-cons, Trump has “come of age,” having finally “accepted the role of Leader of the Free World.”