By Gökhan Kurtaran
London letter, April 10

- Rising tensions could pressure global economy

Following last week’s suspected chemical gas attack on civilians in Syria by the Syrian regime, pressure on President Assad to step down is mounting despite Russia and Iran’s continuous support to keep his seat. However, the cancellation of U.K. Foreign Minister’s visit to Russia gave a clear message to Russia that the West aims to act in unity on the Syrian crisis, and sooner or later Assad will not be deemed part of the region’s future.

Up until the suspected gas attack, the Syrian president was secure with the de facto approval of the West in leaving him alone and on their focus on the much more dangerous enemy, DAESH. The group have killed thousands of innocent people in the region and targeted western capitals with deadly terror attacks. However, according to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, last week’s suspected attacks have fundamentally changed the U.K.’s position. After the U.S. attacks on Assad’a air bases, the possibility of the U.S., U.K., Turkey, other NATO members and Gulf countries heightened in garnering a common approach towards Syria. However, there is still no sign of any desire to put boots on the ground, particularly in the U.K. after Tony Blair’s historical move in sending British troops to Iraq in 2003.

It is highly likely at the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Lucca, Italy, on Monday that Johnson will push western nations to impose new sanctions on Russia if it fails to cut ties with Assad. However, Iran and Russia, the two main backers of the Syrian regime, warned jointly on Sunday that they would “respond with force” if there are further U.S. attacks in Syria. According to The Times newspaper, the Russian embassy in London suggested that if Moscow received an ultimatum from western powers this week, it could lead to a “real war”. Tension to such an extent has not been seen between the west and Russia since Putin’s tanks rolled into Tbilisi in 2008 and escalated the Russian annexation of Crimea.

Moreover, this weekend the U.S. also deployed an aircraft carrier group to waters near the Korean peninsula to warn off Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, who provoked Washington with a missile test this month. According to the Financial Times, it was a “show of force”. The U.S. President Donald Trump seemed to prefer flexing muscles leaving little room for international diplomacy to settle the ongoing crisis. Increasing tensions could well fuel regional conflicts and risk large-scale combat. Undoubtedly, the mounting risks might also pressure global economic growth as well as international trade, which is already under the risk of protectionism across the world.



10 Apr,2017