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Syria airstrikes: Experts predict what could happen next

With airstrikes on Syria targeting chemical weapons facilities declared a success by Theresa May, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron, many will be wondering what happens next.

Mrs May has not ruled out fresh action if Bashar Assad’s regime continues to attack its own people while the US has warned it is “locked and loaded” for fresh strikes if necessary.

The PM has insisted the decision to deploy British cruise missiles in response to the chemical attack in Douma was “both right and legal”.

But the strikes have been met with a mixed reaction. Some have condemned her for not consulting Parliament before authorising the operation, while others supported the Prime Minister’s actions.

So what do experts think?

“Wholly right” – Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army, backed airstrikes in Syria (Picture: PA)

 

Lord Dannatt, former head of the British Army

Inaction following the “appalling” use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would have made the West look weak, says Lord Dannatt, who was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 to 2009.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the retired Army officer said it was “wholly right” that Syria was subject to sanctions from the UK, US and France.

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“The Prime Minister…deserves our congratulations for having the moral courage to do the right thing at the right time,” he said. “Always seeking approval from Parliament is a recipe for inaction.”

Lord Dannatt said the next step is for Britain to play its part in getting all parties to meet “around the conference table” in Geneva, and put a stop to the Syrian civil war.

“Pinprick” – Lord West said Saturday’s airstrikes were a “pinprick” while the next response could be a “great big hammer” (Picture: PA) 

Lord West, former head of the Royal Navy

Lord West, who was First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff from 2002 to 2006, agreed, saying Bashar Assad would be “stupid” to consider deploying chemical weapons again.

He said some form of military action “had to be taken” over the situation in Syria and while Saturday’s attack was a “pinprick”, the next one could be a “great big hammer”.

“Theresa May was right not to go to Parliament,” he wrote in a column for the Sunday Mirror. “If she had evidence of a chemical attack that would have added extra complication.”

He added that he believes Russia will not fire missiles and Vladimir Putin would be happy to “allow this to fade away”.

Protests – Syrian-Americans have expressed their anger at the missile strikes on their homeland during an anti-war rally in Los Angeles (Picture: AP)

Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute, Oxford

But Mark Almond, director of the Crisis Research Institute in Oxford, questioned whether the “pinpoint precision” of the airstrikes may have made the situation worse.

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, he said while the “immediate risk of a wider war” had been avoided for now, sources of potential conflict are still very much active on the ground in Syria.

“Bad relations could easily encourage a reckless Russian freebooter, prompted and paid by Iran, to try his luck getting revenge on the pockets of US and British forces operating in eastern Syria,” he wrote.

“Britain is more exposed to potential revenge attacks, despite only four Tornados taking part in the strikes, because they flew from Akrotiri in Cyprus – so close to Syria and to Lebanon.”

Airstrikes – the strikes targeted the Him Shinshar Chemical Weapons Storage Facility in Syria (Picture: DigitalGlobe via AP) 

Professor Michael Clarke, counter-terrorism and defence expert

And Michael Clarke, a British academic who specialises in defence studies, warned that British involvement in the strikes could lead to imminent cyber attacks from Russia.

Speaking to the Sunday Mirror, he said: “I suspect Russia will choose not to respond in military terms. But cyber warfare is highly likely.

“It will be an attack on national infrastructure, not just upsetting city firms, but getting inside the transport system, or the health system, or air traffic control. It could affect everyone.”

(Top picture: AP)