April 12, 2018 Special Dispatch No. 7426

Columnist In Saudi Government Daily Calls On U.S. And Its Allies To Attack Presidential Palace In Damascus In Order To Deter Bashar Al-Assad

April 12, 2018
Saudi Arabia, Syria | Special Dispatch No. 7426

U.S. President Donald Trump's statement that the Syrian regime will pay a "big price" for its April 7, 2018 chemical attack on Douma, which left dozens dead, as well as the American, British and French preparations for a military strike in Syria, sparked an intense debate in Saudi Arabia. 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."[1]  

The Saudi press also discussed the possibility of a military strike in Syria and the ramifications of such an attack. On April 12, the front-page headline of the government daily 'Okaz read: "Syria – War Is Coming."

'Okaz front page: "Syria: War Is Coming"

In his April 12 column in 'Okaz, journalist Khaled Al-Suleiman urged the U.S. and its allies not to suffice with attacking empty military bases, as was done in the past, because this evidently failed to deter Assad from continuing his chemical attacks. He urged them, rather, to carry out an effective strike, including on the presidential palace in Damascus, that would change the balance of power on the ground and force Assad to accept a political settlement. Another article published in 'Okaz that day stated, in a similar vein, that any military strike on the Syrian regime would have to be very painful, not only in order to deter Assad but in order to divest him of the ability to commit more crimes.

The following is a translation of Khaled Al-Suleiman's article.

"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. So now that the U.S. president and his allies have decided to carry out a military strike on the Syrian regime in retaliation for its chemical attack on Douma, they must choose between an effective strike that will cause it to think 1,000 times before repeating its crime, and an attack on empty targets that have been evacuated, as was done in the past. 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.

"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. [But] the support lent to the regime by Russia complicates matters and makes the option of removing [Assad] from power and prosecuting him seem remote, at this point.

"Hence, the military punishment must effectively limit the regime's military capabilities and restore the balance [between the regime and the opposition] on the ground, which will force [the regime] to accept a non-violent settlement and force its ally, Russia, to take a humbler and more realistic [position]. And no, 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 daily: Bashar Al-Assad will not escape the "attack" (Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, April 12, 2018)


[1] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), April 11, 2018.

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