If the US and/or the UK and/or France (likely helped by Belgium, a tiny country that likes to use its small squadron of F-16’s) bombs Syria now, could that spark a World War?

Russia’s forces in Syria are embedded with Syrian troops. Especially the air defense of Syria is backed by Russia. They have sophisticated systems in place that could take out incoming missiles and could down western jets, even the most advanced ones. Only a massive attack could do serious damage. Trump has launched rockets before, but they did minimal damage to one air base.

Rockets would probably be launched from submarines in the region or destroyers and in the scariest scenario Russia could opt to retaliate and target those.

What’s certain is that Russia is not going to let scores of its soldiers die and do nothing.

If an attack does occur we can only hope that they will not kill any Russians. This is only possible if the attack would just be symbolical, because at this point you can’t cripple Assad’s armed forces without damaging the Russians in the area.

France could launch attacks from its own territory, by refueling jets along the way, or from its base in Jordania. The US and the UK could attack from submarines, or destroyers or from bases just as in Qatar.

What they could accomplish is unclear. It’s dubious anything positive could result from an attack.

It’s not been proven that Assad has used gas.

You can also ask yourself why the death of thousands through conventional weapons in Syria, Palestine and Yemen does not get the same moral outrage as the use of gas, which, even if true, has killed far, far less people. Perhaps it’s not human life that the west cares about. Perhaps it wants to prevent Assad from winning the war. Saudi-Arabia and Qatar want to weaken Iran, a strong ally of Syria. Israel does not want to see any strong neighbours, so permanent chaos in Syria is much better for them than a strong Syria that controls its own territory, and by now has one of the most experienced armies in the world. Israel also wants to stop support from following from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon via Syrian territory. Israel is still occupying the Golan heights which belong to Syria.

At the same time Turkey is afraid of seeing an independent Kurdistan rise from the ashes of the Syrian conflict.

China seems to be in the camp of Russia and Iran, but so far, has done little to openly support Assad.

So yes, this is the most dangerous situation the world has been in for decades.

It reminds us of the situation in 1914 when Austria-Hungary presented Serbia an impossibly harsh ultimatum which it refused with the backing of Russia.

We will make the risky prediction that it will NOT come to a third world war, not at this moment anyway.

Trump is clearly hesistating and doesn’t know what to do about. He wants to show what a tough guy he is, but he is not an idiot, he knows he can do little, except risk an insane escalation.

The unpopular Macron of France might actually the most likely guy to attack Syria, if only to boost his sagging popularity. The French haven’t been too enthusiastic about their young president… Some war glory might alter that for a brief period.

Theresa May, who doesn’t have money for healthcare, public transport, schools, or even the fire brigade or the police, does seem to have cash stowed away to bomb a country that in no ways poses a threat to the UK.

It’s very unlikely though that the UK would act alone in this. The last war it fought on its own against military underdog Argentinia wasn’t exactly a masterpiece of military strategy (although they did win).

Are we on the brink of world war III?

Probably not.

Will this crisis polarize the world even more deeply?

Yes, for sure.

The cold war is back, perhaps it was never really gone, and let’s not forget that the cold war was hot, hot indeed. The military industrial complex needs a constant threat to keep the money machine turning.

Oh, and by the way, if anyone likes to use chemical weapons, it’s the west, in the 1980’s it supplied them to Saddam (yes, Saddam used to be their biggest buddy) to gas the Iranian army. Western diplomats celebrated those attacks.

In a declassified 1991 report, the CIA estimated that Iran had suffered more than 50,000 casualties from Iraq’s use of several chemical weapons.

(Wright, Robin (2008). Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East. New York: Penguin Press. p. 438. ISBN 9781594201110.)

(In the picture you see Iranian soldiers wearing gas masks during the Iraq-Iran war, during which the west supported Saddam)