Once again America-led alliance has struck Syria to destroy the chemical weapon stocks. It was decades ago that US had taken the stand to attack Iraq on the same plea of producing chemical weapons clandestinely. American and allies stand is that the production of chemical weapons is against the international norms and violative of Security Council directives. Surprisingly the skies were clear of smoke and fire over Aleppo in the north, Hasakeh in the northeast, and Latakia and Tartus along the western coast, where key Syrian and Russian military installations are located. The joint operation came one week after a suspected chemical attack on an opposition-controlled town outside Damascus left more than 40 people dead. Western powers blamed President Bashar al-Assad, but Syria and its ally Russia categorically denied the claims and accused the West of “fabricating” the incident to justify military action. Attack on Iraq saw the oil prices going up and for India it was a worried situation at that time. In the present conflict an additional factor is the possibility that Iranian forces in Syria would be hit by any US attack, which might invite retaliation. Iran is unlikely to be able to attack US forces in the Mediterranean directly, but forces in Iraq and Syria might be subject to ‘asymmetrical warfare,’ i.e., small-scale attacks, possibly including suicide bombers. The threat to oil markets comes if Iranian actions encourage President Trump to refuse to recertify the Iranian nuclear agreement in mid-May. While many of Iran’s customers in Asia would not be concerned, there might be some drop in sales from companies fearful of US legal action. Sanctions on financial transfers would also deter the more conventional customers, but the Iranians should be able to work around that after a brief pause. Could this also mean an escalation in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia? Given that the Saudis have been attacking Iranian-supported Houthis in Yemen without direct response by Iran for some time now, any Saudi actions in Syria seems unlikely to be a provocation that would worsen the situation in the Gulf. In any case the situation is worrisome for those countries that depend on oil from the area.
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