By retired Air Self-Defense Force Lt. Gen. Toshimichi Nagaiwa
Interviewed by international news reporter Takeo Miyazaki
The attack launched by the Trump administration is meant to convey its determination not to tolerate any further use of chemical weapons. The Assad regime has used chemical weapons again despite the punitive strike by the U.S. in April last year.
The latest attack involved nearly two times the 59 cruise missiles fired last year. This was meant to inflict grater damage on the Assad regime.
However, the Trump administration has no wish to topple the Assad regime or become deeply involved in the Syrian civil war. It does not want to be embroiled in conflict with Russia, which has military bases in Syria, and further aggravate the hostilities. It limited its targets and avoided human casualties.
This attack was meant to be punitive and the Assad regime understands the U.S.’s intent. However, it must have realized that the Trump administration has a stronger resolve than the previous Obama administration and will take concrete action. I believe the hurdle for using chemical weapons has been raised. However, the possibility remains that such weapons may again be used, depending on developments in the civil war, so the international community, including Japan, needs to apply stronger pressure.
This attack is also meant as a message for the U.S.-DPRK summit to be held by early June. North Korea possesses sarin, VX gas, mustard gas, and other chemical weapons and does not have too much qualms about using them. The armed attack on Syria is probably also meant as pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime to convey the message that the use of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear arms, will not be tolerated. (Slightly abridged)