Donald Trump has warned Russia that they should “get ready” for military attacks from the United States. Theresa May has stated that “the continued use of chemical weapons cannot be challenged”. Emmanuel Macron has called for a “strong and common response”.
But what can the West actually do in response to the alleged chemical attack by Assad’s regime in Syria?
Option 1 – The first and foremost option that comes to your mind is for the United States to conduct a limited air strike and clear targets on some Syrian bases where alleged chemical weapons attacks have been launched last weekend. We do not know what these bases are, but you can bet that the US secret services know and know it well. A possible attack may be similar to the strategy used last April when President Trump decided to target the Al-Shayrat base.
I would consider this option a relatively low risk, which would hardly cause revenge retaliation. But, this is a small impact option as well. The planes flew here more than 24 hours before the attack last year. And, as we all know, it was not enough to stop Assad’s regime hit again.
Option 2 – A second option may be to see President Trump decide to give “green light” for a killer blast to the entire Syria aerial fleet. There are 24 airfields in total. But this would be a high-risk option. The more areas to attack, the higher the risk of killing Russians who have been sheltered on these bases.
Option 3 – A second option, but I consider it unlikely, would be to strike the Syrian government’s infrastructure in Damascus.
This means to hit the international airport. It is also the largest entry gateway for Iranian and Russian aircraft, which would bring aid to the Assad government. Bombing the airport and destroying it, or even bombing a government building, like the Ministry of Defense, would also pose the high risk of causing many casualties among civilians.
Option 4 – This is probably the most unlikely option for everyone, reading the statements and the language used by the capitals of the West, it would be “nothing to do”. This would, in fact, allow Assad to do whatever he wants despite chemical attacks, such as last year’s Khan Shaykh, or this year in Douma. I do not think that Washington and Paris are prepared to allow such a thing.
Also Read: 6 basic questions about the war in Syria
Who is the military power available to the United States?
If America and its allies choose to launch air strikes, the question arises:
How will it be operated and where the bomber aircraft will be set up?
Americans have a very high presence of Air Force at the Al-Udeid base in Qatar, the largest in the region. But this basis, for coincidence, is also the so-called rumored location of the liaison of Russian commanders.
The US also has “destroyers” that release drones, as well as the USS Donald Cook destroyer, reportedly shifted to the east of the Mediterranean in recent days. Warship left the port of Larnaca on Tuesday with the tomahawk missile cargo with a 1,000 km radius, which means that they can be sent to Syria from a safe distance. This is exactly what is called the “beyond the horizon” weapon.
What about Great Britain, what can be said?
If Theresa May decides to be involved in this attack, the military assets are in full readiness. 8 bomber aircraft “Tornado GR4” and 6 Typhoon fighter jets are stationed at the Royal Air Force base in Akrotiri, Cyprus. The “Tornado” was created during the Cold War to fly low and fast to Eastern Europe, certainly out of the radars. So they would be effective jets if they were called to “slice” the Syrian airspace.
They also carry Storm Shadow Cruise Missile, which can be released from a 300-mile stop position, allowing the Royal Air Force to pursue targets by staying away from the perimeter accessible by the enemy. A “Tornado” would be very effective against airfields, large buildings, and energy stations. In Akrotiri, there is also a supply tanker and a Sentinel oversight aircraft, which would play both an important role. But in the region, there is also a “smart” submarine allegedly loaded with “tomahawk” missiles. In the end, but not least, there is also an airplane called “RAF Airseeker Rivet Joint”. This “secret” plane has extremely advanced equipment on board that can tap all phone communications.
They have a dozen Rafale aircraft, divided between the bases in Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. They also have the option of launching “cruise” missiles from a frigate named “l’Aquitaine”. It is currently sailing in international waters of the Mediterranean.
But who is the biggest risk of a military intervention?
For all the possible options and the degree of risk associated with each of them, the biggest and most important concern is … Russia and its retaliatory response.
Its main airbase is on the outskirts of Latakias, in eastern Syria, where S-400 surface-to-air missiles are. It is considered to be the deadliest antiaircraft defense system in the world. This airbase radar covers an area that even includes the British base in Cyprus. Its missiles, capable of flying at a speed of Mach 6, have a range of 250 miles. This base can engage 36 targets simultaneously. So it is almost guaranteed the perfect ability to crash any missile on the way or even a fighter plane.
These are the options and the risks. Three governments can do their own analysis and weigh them well before making a decision.