The missiles fired against Damascus, Syria divided Europe deeply

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, received Staffan De Mistura, Special Envoy of the United Nations for Syria. Smiling in Brussels without good reason. Date: 09/01/2018. Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union , 2018 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Chara Kaminara-Pipitsouli.

Last Friday night till the early hours of Saturday morning the US-France-Britain alliance attacked the Assad/Putin regime of Damascus, with a precipitation of missiles. Seemingly though, the hits have had a greater political impact on Europe than in Syria itself. Germany and Italy, the other two major European Union countries with strong interests in the wider region of Middle East, abstained. They didn’t want to come to direct confrontation with the Russians, who are the main force keeping alive the Assad government in Damascus. Moscow is today the real force opposing the West in the Syrian conflict.

However, after a night during which the West attacked Syria with reportedly more than 100 missiles, the next morning Damascus released a video showing President Bashar al-Assad going about his business as usual. On top of that, the defense ministry of the Russian Federation announced that no missile was targeted to sites in Hmeimim and Tartus, where Russian defense systems are operational. Russian sources also said of the 107 missiles fired, 71 were intercepted.

Targeting chemical weaponry

The chief American general Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff said the main target was a research and production center for chemical and biological weapons, in the greater Damascus capital area. A US pentagon spokesman then revealed that 76 missiles were fired against these buildings, destroying all but one, which was partially damaged.

The same source added that the Damascus air space is one of the most heavily defended spots of the world, yet he insisted the attack has decisively crippled the ability of Syria to produce chemical weapons. Reportedly, Britain and France participated by firing missiles also from ships sailing in the Eastern Mediterranean and fighter planes flying outside the Syrian airspace.

As expected, the Syrians and their Russian and Iranian backers tried to belittle the results of the West’s attack. Of course, Damascus, Moscow and Tehran condemned the attack with the strongest terms. A kind of surprise came from Ankara, where the Turkish President Recep Erdogan loudly and clearly approved the attack, despite being a member of an alliance with Russia and Iran. Yet again this was expected, because the Assad regime in Damascus is ‘red cloth’ for Erdogan and Turkey. But let’s go to Europe and evaluate the political impact there, from the western military action in Syria.

The impact on Europe

Starting from Germany the general line Berlin has adopted vis-à-vis the entire Syrian affair is authentically reported, with a few lines in a pertinent article by the prestigious German business news group Handelblatt. It reads as follows “But the chancellor’s (Angela Merkel) reluctance to employ military force is in line with Berlin’s consistent stance on Syria. Germany wants a clearer idea of just what kind of settlement is envisioned to resolve the Syrian conflict. In general, Germany has been averse to employing military force and cautious about how far it will go in confronting Russia”. So, what Chancellor Merkel said last Saturday in relation to the joint US, France and Britain attack was quite eloquent. Speaking in Berlin she stated, “To simply do nothing is also difficult.”

Politically correctness vs military action

In general, Berlin adopts a politically correct attitude in relation to chemical weapons, condemning their use along with the rest of the civilized world. However, making sure that such weapons are not produced and used is a different thing. While the other three western powers are ready to use military force to ascertain it, Berlin stops short of that. Instead, “Ms. Merkel pledged Germany’s support for efforts by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN Security Council to call Syria to account for the illegal use of chemical weapons”. Obviously, Germany goes for this mild and reputedly ineffective option, regarding the strict prohibition of the production and use of chemical weapons.

OPCW and the UN have been unable so far to prohibit the production and the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but Berlin doesn’t seem to care much about it. It is more important for Merkel not to press Putin too hard. So, it becomes evident that a lot of things separate Berlin from the Washington – Paris – London alliance. This is not an affair of the last few years though. It has deep roots in the 20th century history.

After two world wars

During the decades after the last world war, the three Atlantic powers had being developing and operating large nuclear and conventional war machines that Germany doesn’t possess. It’s also a historical fact that the three have been using their military might to gain privileged positions in the wider oil rich Middle East region, as well as in Africa and elsewhere in the world, in areas rich in other valuable minerals. In the last century after two world wars, Berlin repeatedly failed to gain a foothold on similar resources.

So, Germany turned to her specialty, in developing and promoting a formidable automotive and other engineering sectors, which cannot fire guided missiles or nukes, but produce a lot of cash. In the end of the day, Germany may be obliged to pay politically and financially dear for fuels and raw materials, but it’s not certain either that the other three have made good ‘investments’ in developing their missile weaponry. The difference of approach between Germany and the France-Britain duo became evident some years ago, when the two aligned with the US – the Atlanticists – and destroyed Libya.

The Atlanticists and Germany

Regarding Syria, the differences of approach between Germany on the one hand and France and Britain on the other, became evident in what the EU leaders in Brussels had to say about the missile attack. Donald Tusk, the President of the EU Council revealed his aggressive attitude against Damascus and Moscow not through the mainstream official channels. He chose to tweet, “Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia & Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice”. Tusk is thought to be the Atlanticist angle of the EU leadership.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was much more restrained. He didn’t justify the military attack, he just made a note of it. Then, Juncker had a more German like politically correct conclusion to make. He said “As it enters its 8th year of conflict, Syria desperately needs a lasting ceasefire respected by all parties that paves the way for achieving a negotiated political solution through the United Nations-led Geneva process, to bring peace to the country once and for all”.

Juncker vs Tusk

It’s as if Juncker puts the blame on all sides for the destruction of Syria, by not attacking the ‘unholy’ trio of Damascus, Moscow and Tehran as Tusk did. This said, let’s abandon ‘sides’ taking and come back to the realities of our segregated world.

All in all, the missiles fired by US, France and Britain will not change the fact, that, on the ground, Damascus, Moscow and Tehran are the winners. Last week ‘The European Sting’ analyzed that. The western missiles were just a face saving action. Yet, once more, those 107 Tomahawk and other missiles launched from ships, airplanes and one submarine managed to deeply divide the EU.

 

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