TEL AVIV – If the U.S. really wants to stop the massacres in Syria, it needs to target President Bashar Assad’s palace in Damascus, an article published in Saudi’s government daily suggested.
“This is not the first time Bashar Al-Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against its own people, nor is it the first time it will be punished with a military strike. But the criminal did not stop his crimes and the military penalties failed to deter him,” Okaz columnist Khaled Al-Suleiman wrote, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
The U.S. and its allies, Suleiman wrote, must choose “between an effective strike that will cause [Syria] to think 1,000 times before repeating its crime” and attacking “empty targets that have been evacuated.”
In a joint operation with the UK and France, chemical weapons sites, including a storage facility and a research base, were targeted in the pre-dawn hours, constituting the largest military intervention since the civil war began. However, according to Russian reports, no one was harmed in the strikes. The military assault was a response to the chemical gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last week in which 42 people reportedly died and many others, according to images and video, were left gasping for breath and foaming at the mouth.
Suleiman’s article comes amid an intense debate in Saudi Arabia surrounding the joint military strike. Four days prior to the missile assault, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman said in a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on April 10 that Saudi Arabia was “ready to join [its] allies in any military action in Syria, should this be necessary.”
Okaz‘s front page: “Syria: War Is Coming” Photo: MEMRI
Suleiman continued by asserting that no strike would be effective unless it directly hurt Assad. For that reason, he wrote, the U.S. should launch its missiles on the presidential palace in the Syrian capital.
“The truth is that, unless one of the U.S. cruise missiles is directed at the Al-Muhajiroun presidential palace in Damascus, no missile will [make an] unusual [impression] on the head of the Syrian regime, for if he attributes no importance to the lives of innocent Syrian women, children and elders, he certainly attributes no importance to the lives of his soldiers,” he wrote.
“The criminal use of chemical weapons requires intervention by the international community, not in order to punish the regime with missile strikes, but in order to prosecute it after it has lost its legitimacy to continue governing,” Suleiman added.
However, he said, the support of the Assad regime by Russia only complicates matters and makes the possibility of removing Assad from power all the more remote.
For that reason, Suleiman maintained, only a severe “military punishment” will restore the balance between the regime and the opposition on the ground, forcing Assad and his cronies to accept a “non-violent settlement” and at the same time push Russia “to take a humbler and more realistic” position.
Suleiman concluded that “a strike on an empty military base or a landing strip in a military airbase, which will be repaired within a few hours, will be tantamount to a lot of talk and no action.”
Cartoon in Saudi’s Al-Riyadh daily: “Bashar Al-Assad will not escape an attack.” Photo: MEMRI.