Last night, the U.S. launched a massive missile strike against the Shayrat airbase, where the sarin gas attack against the town of Khan Shaykhun in the Idlib Province of Syria was reportedly carried out. At least 80 people, including women and children, were killed in the horrific chemical weapons attack. In response, President Trump ordered 60 tomahawk missiles to be fired at the airfield.
As networks covered this event, CNN’s Fareed Zakaria said he agreed with the moral imperative of this action, but worried about the political strategy. Are we going to take out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who reportedly ordered this chemical attack? If so, that is going to require a ground invasion. In the absences of clarity, Zakaria said that we might be acting as ISIS’ air force with this military action. Newsbusters clipped the exchange the CNN host had with colleague Don Lemon:
FAREED ZAKARIA: There is a civil war in Iraq [Syria] between Assad essentially and ISIS and a bunch of other jihadis. Are we now saying we’re against Assad? Do we want to strengthen ISIS? Do we want the Assad regime to fall? If so, are we willing to commit ourselves to that goal? If not, we've just thrown bombs in the middle of one of the most complex civil wars in the country and now we're going to step back and say, “Well that's it, we're done.”
DON LEMON: And the reason it's hard to answer many of the questions you're asking is because this is such a young presidency and we really don't know what the foreign policy is, especially when it comes to Syria.
ZAKARIA: Well, and there is this bizarre incoherency at this point, right? As you said there are 24 tweets that Donald Trump made in 2013 when there were worse chemical attacks than this one in which he said “do not get involved in Syria, do not bomb Syria this would be a big mistake.” Sean Spicer said two days ago reacting to this very chemical attack, “We shouldn't be trying to get Assad out, that's not realistic.”
So, if that's the case, what have we just done, and what is the purpose of it, and what will we do tomorrow? So I said, there's a tremendous feel good -- I don't mean that in a superficial sense, there is a kind of morally affirming element to this act—this military act that I applaud. But what is the political strategy behind it? Are we now going to try and topple the Assad government? If so, that means tens of thousands of troops on the ground. If not, what exactly have we active?
There is a danger -- Ben Wedeman mentioned it on Anderson. There is a danger that we effectively acted as ISIS’s air force. Because anything that weakens Assad in a strategic sense in Syria, strengthens ISIS. Those are the two principle players on the ground.