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US strikes in Syria. Message from Mars to Venus

The USS Porter - one of the ships from which the Tomahawks departed - normally based in Rota in Spain, belongs to the Sixth Fleet based in the Mediterranean (credit: US Navy/Ford Williams)

(B2) Europeans woke up groggy on Friday (morning). The United States struck quickly after the Assad regime's chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun. The pens and papers of the conference on Syria, organized in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, were barely put away that the Americans had already decided to act and take action.

During the night of April 6 to 7, 59 missiles Tomawakh, launched from two ships — theUss porter (DDG-78) and theUSS Ross (DDG-71) based in the Mediterranean – were fired at the Syrian army's Shayrat (or Al-Chaayrate) air base.

Red lines not to be crossed

Donald Trump's decision gives him a foundation that few had anticipated so far. In a few days, he operated an almost complete political reversal. From a designation of Daesh as the supreme enemy, and of Bashar as a cumbersome character who could be accommodated, he went on to designate him as an adversary. The Damascus regime is now warned and very clearly: there are certain red lines that should not be crossed in the war that the regime is waging against part of its population. It is much more effective than declarations not followed by effect. Trump inaugurates the era of the effect without prior declaration, a little according to the Russian method (1).

A triple trigger message

This message is not only intended for Syria, it has a triple meaning.

A warning to Tehran and Pyongyang

The message is also intended for neighboring countries, especially Tehran: be careful not to resume a nuclear proliferation program, or it could be Iran that could be targeted next time, an action that some Israeli officials dream of. It can also be destined for North Korea, another country which tends to play with the limits of nuclear proliferation.

A language of force for Russians

Trump's message is for the Russians. Even if Moscow raised a strong protest, and that the tone seems to rise between the two capitals, it seems for the moment more about a rise in power of the political muscles than military. The language of force is a notion widely used by the Russians... and perfectly understood.

Moscow informed if not completely in agreement

This attack seems, moreover, to have been carried out if not with Moscow's consent, at least with its understanding. The Russian authorities who together with the Syrians provide aerial surveillance of the area having been - it seems - warned of the strike. Moreover, as a Western source told me, the movements of American ships in the Mediterranean did not go unnoticed and could presage an American reaction. It was the speed that surprised even the most experienced observers.

Venus' message to Mars

Finally, President Trump's message is to his European allies: there is a boss in Washington and a single boss in NATO: it is the United States which alone can act in the world, in a military way. It's the very clear return of the dichotomy between gentle Venus and martial Mars, one talks and takes out the checkbook to make amends, the other acts militarily and discusses politics. Trump is thus following in the footsteps of his Republican predecessors: Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. It allows, in passing, the American president to federate the Republicans around him and to silence any criticism in Washington presenting him as a weak-willed president.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) As Dimitri Rogozin told me a few years ago when he was ambassador to NATO at the time of Georgia and the anti-missile shield: "we strike... and we discuss afterwards".

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).