Zumwalt: Trump’s Syria Response May be His Presidency’s Defining Moment

Donald Trump
The Associated Press

President Donald Trump announces he will respond to Syria’s most recent chemical attack upon its citizens within 24-48 hours. It is absolutely essential that response be forceful.

Its impact will go far beyond the borders of Syria. It will have impact elsewhere in the Middle East, as well as in Asia. It is a response that will closely be monitored by a new Axis of Evil.

While the Axis of Evil was first cited by President George W. Bush in 2002, it remains alive today, despite an original member being replaced.

Bush’s Axis recognized three members: Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Although it lost charter member Iraq, Syria has now officially replaced it. There should be no doubt, despite Democrats’ outrageous preoccupation with non-existent collusion between Trump and Russia, that collusion runs rampant among the Axis of Evil membership.

Collaboration among these current Axis members was actually evident more than a decade ago. It was revealed by an event to which the West paid little attention at the time.

Syria, which serves at the beck and call of Iran’s mullahs, was to be the situs of a secret nuclear arms facility being funded by Iran and built by North Korea. The mullahs’ dream of having this done right under Western noses came to a screaming halt in 2007 when Israel conducted an air strike to destroy it. While Israel remained silent about the strike for years by not taking credit for it, interestingly, neither Syria nor Iran raised much of a protest. They sought to keep a low profile as to what they were doing, with Syrian President Bashar Assad not even choosing to have an international inspection done of the damage to register an official protest. It was if neither the construction of the nuclear facility nor its ultimate destruction had ever occurred.

More recently, we have learned Pyongyang has also been providing Syria with chemical weapons materials. It would not be surprising if these, too, were funded by Iranian funds — and, if so, with monies President Barack Obama released to the mullahs, naively believing they would be put into stimulating Iran’s economy.

It is interesting that, during the Iran-Iraq war, Tehran filed protests against the Iraqi government concerning its use of chemical warfare. The Iranian victims of Saddam Hussein’s attacks actually outnumber the casualties inflicted at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Many Iranian veterans who survived those attacks still suffer from its effects today.

It is likely Tehran would have had full knowledge beforehand about Assad’s decision to use chemical weapons. Their willingness to see him employ these weapons was undoubtedly two-fold. First, leaders who treat their own people so brutally have little reservation about exercising greater brutality upon others. Second, the mullahs probably see this as an opportunity to test Trump’s resolve—at the expense of a proxy that will be left by Tehran to suffer the consequences therefrom.

Trump’s announcement on whether he will take action against Syria enables the mullahs to stand on the sidelines to determine whether Trump’s response will be a forceful one or not. Should it be the latter, they can be expected to press forward more assertively with their own aggressive acts and their nuclear program; if the former, they will seek to bide their time, hoping Trump is limited to a single term and replaced by a president of Obama’s ilk.

Trump’s actions will definitely be closely monitored as well by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. With Trump and he meeting in May, right now the dictator is clueless, as are other Axis of Evil leaders, as to what makes Trump tick. None really has a handle on what he is willing to do when his red line is crossed.

Meanwhile, the Democrats remain so blinded by a desire to find Trump’s fingerprints on a Russian collusion claim, they ignore at our peril the dangers of the collusion mounted by the Axis of Evil powers.

Whether Trump’s response to Syria proves to be a slap on the wrist, undermining the seriousness of Assad’s transgression, or a punch in the gut, holding him accountable for his inhumane act, will determine whether all three Axis nations throttle their activities to stir up global chaos forward or back.

This may well prove to be the defining moment of Trump’s presidency.

Lt. Colonel James G. Zumwalt, USMC (Ret.), is a retired Marine infantry officer who served in the Vietnam war, the U.S. invasion of Panama and the first Gulf war. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will–Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields,” “Living the Juche Lie: North Korea’s Kim Dynasty” and “Doomsday: Iran–The Clock is Ticking.” He frequently writes on foreign policy and defense issues.

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