A surprise announcement:
“My fellow Americans ashort time ago,I ordered the United States armed forces to launch precision strikes on targets associated with the chemical weapons capabilities of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.”
Despite the tough rhetoric,Russia did not respond to the joint attack.What’s its calculation?
“the Russians are also anxious to avoid adirect confrontation with the United States.”
What exactly is Russia’s role in Syria?
“During the Cold War,Syria was really the only ally that the Soviet Union had in the Middle East.And the Russians have wanted to maintain arelationship with Syria.”
The world is watching what the U.S.will do next:what are China and North Korea looking for?
“Xi Jinping looks at Trump.What does he see?Does he see someone who keeps his promises,keeps his word,is willing to use force?Or someone who isn’t,who’s more Obama-like.”
Welcome to《Zooming In》.I’m Simone Gao.The world was shocked to see the aftermath of the chemical attack in Syria earlier this month.It came shortly after President Trump said he wanted to withdraw US troops from Syria as soon as possible.The world waited to see what the US would do.On Friday,April 13,the president announced joint precision strikes against Assad military targets by the US,UK,and France.Will these strikes be enough to deter Assad from using chemical weapons again?Relations were already tense with Russia,which is the Syrian government’s biggest supporter.Will they do anything in response?And what will China and North Korea learn from how the US handles this crisis?We’ll look at these questions and more in this episode of《Zooming In》.
Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles(TLAM)launched from the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey in the Arabian Sea.It was all over in 2minutes.
U.S.,French and British forces hit three suspected Syrian chemical weapons facilities with atotal of 105 weapons that all struck their targets at about 4am on April 14 local time.
The attack involved ships,aircraft,and one submarine operating from the Eastern Mediterranean,the Red Sea,and the Northern Arabian Sea against three targets–one on the outskirts of Damascus and two others 90 miles to the north.The US Ambassador to the United Nations said the US is ready to keep the pressure on in Syria.
Nikki Haley（美国驻联合国大使／United States Ambassador to the United Nations）：“昨天的军事行动清楚的表明：美国不会允许阿萨德政权继续使用化学武器。昨晚我们夷平了它用来制造大规模杀伤性武器的主要研究设施。我今天早上和总统谈过，他说如果叙利亚政权再次使用这种有毒气体，美国将全力奉陪到底。我们的总统言必行，行必果。”
“With yesterday’s military action our message was crystal clear:the United States of America will not allow the Assad regime to continue to use chemical weapons.Last night we obliterated the major research facility that it used to assemble weapons of mass murder.I spoke to the president this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again the United States is locked and loaded.When our president draws ared line,our president enforces the red line.”
The strikes came about ayear after the US fired cruise missiles into Syria the first time.That was in response to the April 4th,2017,chemical attack that killed over 90 people.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday night that the strikes sent aclear message.
“Tonight France,the United Kingdom and the United States took decisive action to strike the Syrian chemical weapons infrastructure.Clearly the Assad regime did not get the message last year.This time our allies and we have struck harder.Together we have sent aclear message to Assad and his murderous lieutenants that they should not perpetrate another chemical weapons attack for which they will be held accountable.”
The president reiterated on Friday that the US won’t stay in Syria long term.
“America does not seek an indefinite presence in Syria.Under no circumstances as other nations step up their contributions.We look forward to the day when we can bring our warriors home and great warriors they are.Looking around avery troubled world,Americans have no illusions.We cannot purge the world of evil or act everywhere there is tyranny.No amount of American blood or treasure can produce lasting peace and security in the Middle East.It’s atroubled place.We will try to make it better,but it is atroubled place.The United States will be apartner and afriend.But the fate of the region lies in the hands of its own people.”
Advanced Russian air defense systems were believed to be out of range of the three target sites and were not activated,according to Marine Lt.Gen.Kenneth McKenzie,the Joint Staff Director,"There’s no indication the Russian air defense systems were deployed."Nevertheless,the joint missile strike on Friday makes relations between Russia and the West even more tense.
萧茗（Host/Simone Gao）：在发生对叙利亚的袭击之前，我曾与美国海军陆战队指挥参谋学院的Douglas E.Streusand教授进行了讨论。他也是世界政治研究所的兼职教授，我们谈到了俄罗斯的军事能力和可能的反应。
Before the attacks on Syria took place,I had adiscussion with Professor Douglas E.Streusand from the United States Marine Corps Command&Staff College.He’s also an adjunct professor at The Institute of World Politics.We talked about Russia’s capabilities and possible reactions to aU.S.attack.
（Disclaimer:Professor Streusand is not speaking for the United States Marine Corps Command&Staff College or any agency of the U.S.government.）
“Russia vowed to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria,but what do you think the Russians will actually do?Do they have the ability to shoot down American missiles?”
“Well,to start with the last question first:They clearly have the ability to shoot down some missiles.As amatter fact,at least one report suggests that the Syrians themselves were able to shoot down some of the missiles that the Israelis employed in their recent strike on an Iranian facility in Syria.But the United States has the ability to saturate Russian defenses.That is,to fire significantly more missiles than they have available.And this becomes even more true if our allies are involved.And we also have substantial electronic warfare capabilities to overcome those defenses,although the less we reveal of those capabilities,the better.Because once we use those capabilities,then our adversaries–actual or potential adversaries–will learn immediately about those techniques,and we would prefer not to reveal that.But the most recent information that I’ve seen suggests that the United States is trying to do everything possible to avoid striking Russian assets in Syria and provoking aRussian response,and that,in spite of that earlier statement,the Russians are also anxious to avoid adirect confrontation with the United States.”
“Before the most recent chemical attack by Assad,President Trump said he wanted to withdraw U.S.troops from Syria as soon as ISIS is defeated.Do you think that would be agood move?At what point do you think the U.S.should withdraw its troops from Syria?”
“Well,there has been,from the beginning,uncertainty,if not confusion,about what exactly US goals in Syria are,whether it is only the defeat of what Iprefer to call by its Arabic acronym,DAISH,or if there is abroader mission.The problem with withdrawing as soon as DAISH is defeated,that is to say,as soon as it holds no more territory,is that,unless there are other changes,the conditions that led to the formation of DAISH will still exist.So we defeated DAISH in the guise of Al Qaeda in Iraq once.We turned away in 2011,and we have had to return in 2014.And we don’t want to leave the job unfinished.There are also serious questions about the whole future of the region.And if we pull out,we lose almost all of our leverage.We do not want to see Iran really in control of Syria.There are reports,however,that the Iranians are systematically attempting to win over the Shia militias in Syria.That is,to shift their loyalty from the Assad regime to Iran.And so we,like it or not,Iran is astrategic adversary.In the long run,Iran probably poses amuch more severe threat,both to regional stability and to American interests,than the so-called Islamic State did.”
Coming up,How long will the US stay in Syria,and what exactly is Russia’s role there?
On April 5th,Pres.Trump said he wanted to withdraw US troops as soon as ISIS is defeated.This was before the poison gas attacks occured in Syria.On Friday night,President Trump explained the purpose of the newest strikes.He also sent amessage to Russia and Iran.
The purpose of our actions tonight is to establish astrong deterrent against the production,spread and use of chemical weapons.Establishing this deterrent is avital national security interest of the United States.The combined American British and French response to these atrocities will integrate all instruments of our national power military economic and diplomatic.We are prepared to sustain this response until the Syrian regime stops its use of prohibited chemical agents.I also have amessage tonight for the two governments most responsible for supporting equipping and financing the criminal Assad regime.To Iran and to Russia Iask,what kind of anation wants to be associated with the mass murder of innocent men women and children.The nations of the world can be judged by the friends they keep.No nation can succeed in the long run by promoting rogue states brutal tyrants and murderous dictators.In 2013,President Putin and his government promised the world that they would guarantee the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons.Assad’s recent attack and today’s response are the direct result of Russia’s failure to keep that promise.Russia must decide if it will continue down this dark path or if it will join with civilized nations as aforce for stability and peace.Hopefully someday we’ll get along with Russia,and maybe even Iran.But maybe not.”
Ever since the Syrian conflict began in 2011,Russia has supported the Assad regime politically and with military aid.It has been directly involved militarily since September 2015,when it set up an airbase.It also has anaval facility in the Syrian port of Tartus.
Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer estimated last year that 2,000 to 3,000 Russian mercenaries are fighting in Syria.Although Putin said he won’t send ground troops,he did say about 48,000 Russian servicemen have been involved in the campaign.
The West largely avoided military engagement in the past.Meanwhile,Russia’s military intervention turned the tables in favor of the Assad regime.
Russia uses its UN Security Council membership to protect the Syrian government.It has repeatedly vetoed Western-sponsored draft resolutions demanding Assad’s resignation.
On April 4th,the leaders of Iran,Russia,and Turkey conducted high-level talks about ending the civil war in Syria,but they excluded other Western countries.What exactly is Russia’s role in Syria,and why is he there？
萧茗（Host/Simone Gao）：为了了解俄国在叙利亚冲突中扮演的角色，稍早我采访了Elliott Abrams先生。他是美国外交关系委员会中东研究部的资深研究员，他也是前总统George W.Bush的助理国家安全事务顾问，主管美国的中东政策。
To help make sense of Russia’s role in Syria,I had earlier spoke to Mr.Elliott Abrams,Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at Council on Foreign Relations.He also served as deputy national security adviser in the George W.Bush administration,where he supervised U.S.policy in the Middle East for the White House.
“Why did Russia get involved in Syria’s civil war in the first place?What does Putin want to get out of it?”
“Syria and Russia have along relationship that goes back decades,goes back to the time of Hafez al-Assad,the father of Bashar al-Assad.During the Cold War,Syria was really the only ally that the Soviet Union had in the Middle East.And the Russians have wanted to maintain arelationship with Syria,and in particular,they have wanted to have abase or two military bases there.They have always wanted to have anaval base on the Mediterranean.And the Syrians have now given them that.And they also have asmall air base.So this is Putin showing that he is restoring Russia to global influence,now they have abase in Syria,and showing he’s agood ally to his friends in Syria.”
“Do you think Russia will have adirect confrontation with the US in Syria?”
“I do not think there will be any kind of war between the United States and Russia over Syria.You know,in March,I think it was,there was an assault on aposition that the Syrian rebels had where there were alot of Americans with them.Now,these were not Russian–uniformed Russia soldiers,but they were Russians.What’s now been called little green men,meaning,basically,Russian soldiers out of uniform.They attacked the American base.The Americans killed roughly 200 of these Russians.And the Russian reaction was nothing.Nonexistent.So Idon’t think the Russians are looking for aconflict with the US.And there isn’t going to be one.I think the American reaction should be to strike,to bomb Syrian military facilities.But it has to be abigger strike than the one that was done in April of 2017.That was areaction to the use of chemical weapons.And it didn’t work,in the sense that the Syrians have done it again.So obviously the punishment was not great enough.When they decide to use chemical weapons,they are making the judgment that the benefits they are going to get in terrorizing people,in killing people,are greater than any particular cost in world opinion,let us say.We have to show that the cost of using chemical weapons is much greater so that the Syrians and others learn that,if they’re making an amoral realpolitik cost-benefit analysis,the costs are too high.Don’t do it.So that means to me that we should not only strike whatever units may have undertaken this use of chemical weapons,but we should really destroy asignificant portion of Assad’s war machine to teach that lesson.”
Coming up，As President Trump deals with the conflict in Syria,China and North Korea look on.What are they looking for?
萧茗（Host/Simone Gao）：关注叙利亚冲突未来发展的还有两位关键人物，中国领导人习近平和北韩领袖金正恩。他们如何看待川普总统在这场冲突中的表现？我们听一听Elliott Abrams的看法。
While the Syria conflict is unfolding,there are two critical observers:Chinese President Xi Jinping and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.What are they looking for from President Trump’s handling of the Syria crisis?Let’s hear what Elliott Abrams has to say.
“The U.S.has been struggling between two overarching foreign policy philosophies for along time.On one hand,we in this country value liberty and democracy and think these values should affect our foreign policy.That is,we have aresponsibility to protect or project those values in the world.On the other hand,a lot of us think that U.S.foreign policy should be centered around the core interests of America.We are not the world police and should not spend tons of money and shed our children’s blood on other people’s soil.What is your opinion on these two views?”
“This is,as you say,a very important question about American foreign policy.First,I would say Ido not believe the United States has ever sent our soldiers abroad when we did not think we had acore interest.We did not,for example,send troops to Afghanistan to turn it into ademocracy.We did that because the Taliban government was protecting and harboring Al Qaeda,which had conducted the 9-11 attacks.We invaded Iraq under President Bush because there was unanimity among intelligence agencies–American,British,French,Israeli–that he had aprogram for developing nuclear weapons and other nonconventional weapons.If the intelligence agencies had said,no he doesn’t,we would never had sent troops to democratize.It is the case that once we have occupied acountry–Japan and Germany in 1945,Iraq and Afghanistan more recently,we do–it is the American practice to try to build ademocracy.There were many people who said at the end of the second world war,oh,Japan,you don’t understand.See,they have the emperor,and they have adifferent culture.But the American view was,no,they have aright to ademocratic system,and we were right.Japan is agreat democracy.I would also say that it is important to the United States that the cause of freedom in the world be successful.Why did the United States decide in 1941 to become involved in the war in Europe?Because we believed that the conquest of Europe by Nazi Germany,in which they would control almost all of continental Europe,and then invade and conquer England,was going to be adirect threat,military threat,to the United States once they consolidated that control.But Ido think that the cause of liberty in the world is an interest of the United States,not that we send our army.That’s adifferent question.If you believe that it is in the interest of the United States,that the cause of liberty be succeeding,then you have to ask the question,okay,what will you do about it?We do many things that have nothing to do with invasion.And the example Iwould give you is Reagan’s policy towards the Soviet Union.He conducted ideological warfare against it.He called it an evil regime.He conducted economic warfare against it.He did engage in what you might call proxy wars against it.In the third world,for example,fighting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.But we didn’t have awar with the Soviet Union.I think there are many things we can do.We can support democratic groups,NGOs,civil society.We can work through the United Nations.Not everything is use of force.But Iwould not be comfortable with an American foreign policy that said,whether more and more countries become dictatorships or are democracies doesn’t matter to us.We are indifferent.We should take no interest.We should give no assistance to the forces of liberty in the world.I think that would be abig mistake for the United States.”
“That said,we are not in the Reagan era or the post WWII era any more.I think the rest of the world is watching what the U.S.will do next.What does America really perceive its role in the world to be?The Obama administration sent the message that America is not interested in maintaining astrong leadership role.It is leading from behind.What signal has the Trump administration sent to the world in this regard?”
“I would say that signals from the Trump administration,and we are more than ayear into the Trump administration,are not clear.On the one hand,the president wants to make America great again.So ayear ago,he does strike Syria on the chemical weapons question,saying America must take aleadership role.And he’s probably about to do it again.And,yet,he also wants to certainly withdraw American troops from Afghanistan,from Syria.For example,he even talked about NATO.But you know,he hasn’t done it.He was persuaded.No.What you want to do in NATO is make it stronger so that the other countries have to spend at least 2percent of GDP on defense.We want to make NATO stronger,not weaker.Afghanistan,he did not,in fact,bring the troops home because he was persuaded we have to stay there.It’s an important role for the United States.So Ithink we do not yet know where the president will end up as he makes all of these decisions about the American role.He clearly thinks we have borne too great aburden.He feels this on free trade.He feels this on security as well.And Ithink millions of Americans agree with him.But to say that we have borne too great aburden is not to suggest that no burden is worth bearing.He is not an isolationist.I think that’s become very clear.And in anumber of cases,Venezuela and Cuba are two examples,he has been interested in the question of democracy and human rights.”
“Let’s go back to Syria.How will the decisions on Syria affect the U.S.-China trade war and the upcoming summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un?”
“I think that all of these things are related.I think that all these things are related because they relate,in away,to American strength and to the perception of American strength and of Trump’s strength on the part of foreign leaders in Moscow,in Beijing,in Tehran as well.So,for example,if the president does avery powerful strike on Syria,I think Putin sits back and says,this guy is really ready,willing,and able to use American military power.I need to keep that in mind.I think that even affects nonmilitary things such as the trade relationship.Xi Jinping looks at Trump.What does he see?Does he see someone who keeps his promises,keeps his word,is willing to use force?Or someone who isn’t,who’s more Obama-like.I think it’s actually quite important.And that’s another reason why Ihope the president does quite aforceful move in Syria.”
Host 5(Conclusion):Now that the US has taken action in Syria,we will soon see if there will be any response from Russia.The strikes sent aclear message to the rest of the world that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated.With US-Korean talks coming up,how the US handles this conflict can reveal alot to China and North Korea.We’ll see what happens in the coming weeks.This concludes today’s program.Thanks for watching,I am Simone Gao,and we’ll see you again next week.
Writer：Simone Gao，Jess Beatty
Editors：Julian Kuo，Melodie Von，Charles Wang
Translation：Frank Yue，Michelle Wan，Greg Yang，Xiaofeng Zhang
Special Effects：Harrison Sun
Assistant producer：Bin Tang，Sherry Bhang，Merry Jiang
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