Days after 59 tomahawk cruise missiles destroyed a Syrian airbase, the message from Trump and America couldn’t be clearer: there is a new sheriff in town. For Bashar Al-Assad, the message is that the use of chemical weapons will have dire consequences. However, even as the debate on the strikes continues, there is no doubt that a show of force by Trump is something that will be felt beyond the borders of the troubled Middle Eastern nation. The subtle message that the US is no longer going to sit back and watch is also noticeable to both North Korea and Iran. Trump has simply shown that he is not afraid to use force if and when it’s needed.
Although it will be interesting to see what will happen in Syria over the coming few days, Russia, one of Assad’s allies, has denied the claims that the regime used chemical weapons to bomb its people. The Kremlin has also said it will roll back agreements and communication channels with the US, creating a potentially dangerous environment with the real risk of Russian and US planes clashing over Syrian skies.
In the Korean Peninsula where Kim Jong-un has been launching dozens of missile tests in defiance of the US and its agenda, the tensions remain very high. It is not yet clear whether the tensions will abate on the wake of US strikes in Syria. However, what remains clear is the fact that Kim Jong-un has had a glimpse into Trump’s mind, especially with regards to the use of force in foreign territories. North Korea termed the Syrian strikes as an “unforgivable act of aggression” and further justification of its pursuit towards nuclear weapons.
It appears as if the foreign policy approach taken by the Obama administration that emphasized more on dialogue other than force has only served to embolden the US’s geopolitical foes. Iran is also another country that must heed this message. What must really get these countries and their dictatorial leaders bothered is not just the fact that Trump was ready to authorize such a large-scale strike on a key military infrastructure in Syria. It’s the nature of his unpredictability. Remember that Trump had already shown some resistance to getting the US involved in foreign conflicts or even deployment of the US military around the world. It is this unpredictability of the US President that will have the geopolitical foes rattled.
Even though one missile strike does not tell us clearly what the US foreign policy will be in the coming years under Trump, it simply shows that the US is ready to act. For countries like Iran and North Korea, there is no doubt that the time to test the waters is over. Whatever they decide to do next whether it’s testing long and medium range missiles or showing defiance to the US, they will do it knowing that if they were to cross the line, then the US will respond and not just with the sanctions, but also with military force.