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Conservative Review

The president is not tipping his hand on Syria

President Trump fired off a series of tweets Wednesday related to the coming actions he may commence against the Assad regime and its allies in Syria.

Some pundits interpreted the tweets as the president tipping his hand, claiming he revealed that imminent kinetic action was about to hit Syria.

But nothing about the tweet or the president’s statements over the past couple of days has delivered information about any U.S. commitment to any particular tactical approach to the Assad regime and its chemical attacks. Of course, any attack would inevitably involve “missiles.” The reality is that the president hasn’t telegraphed anything whatsoever.

All we know, thus far, is that Syria has “crossed a red line” and that the U.S. is engaging with allied nations to coordinate a military response to Assad’s WMD attack.

The president does appear to be feeding speculation that action against Syria is imminent. It might very well be the case, or it might not. And continuing to place Assad and his allies under hair-trigger conditions will impose an enormous psychological stress on their armies. As the United States continues to survey its options, Russian, Syrian, and Iranian anti-missile crews have been forced to operate around the clock since last weekend. As the days go on, this level of readiness takes an enormous toll on the units tasked with defending against an American attack.

If anything, the president has deployed a successful psychological operation against Assad and his allies, while testing the resolve of Russia and its commitment to the regime in Syria. The United States has only made a few actual maneuvers, yet its enemies have been forced to scramble for the past three days.

Russia has promised to respond to a U.S. attack on Syria, but only if its troops are hit by the strike. It’s mostly empty nationalistic posturing, given that the U.S. has never stated any intention of directly targeting Russian troops in Syria.

The threat of action has paid dividends. All 11 Russian battleships stationed at Russia’s port in Tartus, Syria, have left the country. Additionally, the president appears to be offering Russia an out as part of a wider strategy of attempting to distance Putin from his client in Syria. It’s something worth considering, given the degrading state of the Russian economy. Russia is now forced to weigh whether a broken economy is worth backing a weak but ruthless dictator in a foreign land.

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