Analysis of West’s Military Aggression against Syria

Saturday, May 5, 2018


Hossein Ajorlou

Senior West Asia Analyst

The United States, France and the UK launched a limited military attack on Syria in the early morning of April 14, 2018 as a result of which some of the country’s military and research facilities were damaged. The question is what dimensions and effects are conceivable for the United States’ recent aggression against Syria? The answer is that although the attack was too limited to be of any major effect on the seven-year-old crisis in Syria in political terms and on the ground, it has had effects and consequences at international, regional and domestic levels. This paper aims to look at this development at three analytical levels; that is, domestic, regional and international.

Analysis at domestic level

At the domestic level, the Syrian government considers the recent aggression by the United States as an effort to weaken the government’s effort to stabilize its position in the current crisis and is also aimed at boosting the moral of armed military groups in the Arab country. Since the Russia has tried to reduce the impact of the aggression and it is possible to take action to strengthen the Syrian army as well, the government of Syria may move to further cement ties with Russia. It may also support the role played by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies, like the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, in order to defuse measures taken by the Zionist regime, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Analysis at regional level

Since its inception, the crisis in Syria has turned into an arena for rivalry among regional powers in West Asia with major actors being the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Zionist regime and Turkey. This regional rivalry is developing into more dimensions with every passing day and it seems that the force of this rivalry is more evident under the present circumstances; so that, all parties to it are trying to secure their standing. The positions taken by each and every one of these actors can be explained as follows:

  1. The Islamic Republic of Iran analyzes the recent US aggression against Syria to be in line with the latest attacks on the Syrian soil by the Zionist regime. It argues that the main goal of these attacks is to increase the cost of Iran’s presence in Syria. As a result, Iran has been trying to adopt a more active political and defense diplomacy with Russia and Syria in order to foil this concerted effort by the West and the Zionist regime.
  2. The Zionist regime has been always objecting to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s presence in Syria. However, it seems that the latest measures taken by the Zionist regime have gone far beyond objection at Iran’s presence and have turned into a serious faceoff between the two sides. As a result, geostrategic aspects of this faceoff have become more pronounced than before and this can add fuel to any possible future confrontation.
  3. Saudi Arabia has been providing armed militant groups that oppose the Syrian government with financial and political support throughout the Syrian crisis and has been also encouraging the Western actors like the United States and France to play a more active role in the Syria crisis. It seems that under new conditions, Saudi Arabia is encouraging the United States to embark on extensive military aggression against Syria and has indicated its readiness to cooperate with efforts aimed at regime change in the Arab country, which is a new turn in Saudi Arabia’s position on Syria.
  4. Turkey has been also supporting this aggression and it may be pursuing certain goals in doing this. After Turkey started to work with Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ankara was gradually marginalized in the Syria crisis and even faced major challenges to measures it took in the northern parts of Syria. Turkey is trying through this support to firstly, get out of the shadow of Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Secondly, it wants to mend its tense relations with the United States. Thirdly, the United States’ aggression against Syria distracts media attention from measures taken by Turkey in northern Syria and this will help stabilize Turkey’s presence in that region.

On the other hand and at the regional level, the recent aggression against Syria can be considered as an effort by the United States to send a message to its allies in the West Asia region that Washington will remain in Syria in order to meet the interests of its allies. Now we must see how this limited aggression will be interpreted by the U.S. allies. Will this low level of US presence in the region embolden its allies or will it leave them disillusioned and make them rely more on their own potential? To answer these questions, subsequent measures to be taken by the US allies, especially the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia, in the West Asia region should be closely monitored.


Analysis at international level

At a structural level, this aggression can be analyzed in view of the ongoing rivalry between the United States, the UK, and France, on the one hand, and Russia, on the other. As a result, the aggressor countries are trying through this aggression to boost their status in international policy and are willing to stage a show of force in the context of Syria’s developments, because the crisis in Syria was moving in a direction in which these powers were losing their effect in an increasing manner. The main sign of this marginalization was the meeting in Ankara aimed at resolution of this regional and international crisis, which was attended by Iran, Turkey and Russia, without any place being considered for the West, especially the United States. Therefore, the West needed this move to boost its international status and wanted to show through this aggression that it is still an effective actor in the Syria crisis.

On the other hand, this aggression showed that based on its realistic logic, Russia has tried to recognize this status for the United States and has allowed these countries to play a role again without making any effort to deny their role, because such denial could have more extensive consequences for Syria. It must be noted that the role played by Russia in Syria had been already accepted by the West. A sign of recognition of Russia's role by the West was the limited volume of their attacks in which Russia's vital interests were not targeted. This issue is a sign of de facto recognition of mutual interests in the Syria crisis by involved parties. Meanwhile, although there is intense rivalry between the two sides, they are trying to manage that rivalry.

Another issue, which is remarkable at international level, is positions taken by big powers in this regard. While France and the UK got directly involved in the aggression against Syria, other Western countries like Germany and Canada did not go beyond offering verbal support and avoided getting militarily involved. China, on the other hand, condemned the aggression, but did not take any serious practical step against it. These developments are indicative of the marginal role that Europe and China play in international rivalries between Russia and the United States.



The recent aggression against Syria by the United States, France and the UK has paved the way for more rivalry among international and regional powers. Therefore, if it is not managed, it may have extensive security consequences and outcomes. However, this aggression has had no practical impact on the Syria crisis on the ground and in political terms and evidence emerging after it shows that positions of international and regional powers have been further stabilized in this region, which may lead to further prolongation of the crisis.


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*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.