Each day brings with it the increasing likelihood that the US is prepared to launch an attack on Syria.
This morning, US President Barack Obama confirmed he had “gotten options from our military”.
More importantly, he also confirmed the US had “concluded” that the the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad carried out the recent chemical-weapons attack that killed hundreds of people.
He cited the need to send a “pretty strong signal” to Mr Assad, which carried with it echoes of former president George W. Bush after the US military concluded it had found evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
Russia and China remain opposed to any action in Syria, saying it would have “catastrophic consequences” for the region.
Social media, of course, lit up with concerns that such statements from the two superpowers suggested war was imminent.
But apart from the fact that Russia and China’s concerns – publicly, at least – are mainly for stability in the region and not for any hint of evil Western empire-building, there’s a couple of other reasons why any conflict in Syria would be mainly localised.
1. Tomahawk Missiles Are Extremely Efficient
The USS Barry and three other warships are now in positions off the coast of Syria, poised to unleash a storm of Tactical Tomahawk missiles.
While Syrian and Iranian officials have said they will defend themselves against any Western strike, their best defense seems to be appealing to the UN for time.
That’s because with 390 Tomahawks trained on them, Syria’s going to have a pretty rough opening week.
2. Syria, You’re Already Surrounded
These two maps are a good indication of how quickly any conflict is going to unfold, showing the US, British, and French forces and bases that are positioned near Syria and exactly what those assets are threatening.
3. Oh, And China Couldn’t Intervene In Syria Even If It Wanted To
Retired Major General Luo Yuan, one of China’s most outspoken military figures, told the official People’s Daily last year that with so much oil at stake “we cannot think that the issues of Syria and Iran have nothing to do with us”.
But apart from the fact China has a much-cherished policy of non-interference, it actually has weak and untested military forces unable to project power in the Middle East.
Certainly much less so than the US, British and French forces.
“Could they do it in 10 years time?” Ross Babbage, a military analyst in Canberra and a former senior Australian defense official said.
“Absolutely, if they chose to do it.
“But to conduct the sort of operations we’re talking about here, into the Mediterranean, they’re really not geared for that.”
Xu Guangyu, a retired major general and now senior adviser to the government-run China Arms Control and Disarmament Association, agrees, saying China “has no way of using military forces to protect its interests in the Middle East”.
“The best way to protect its interests would be to diversify its oil imports, get more from Russia, from other parts of the world.”
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