• Bashar al Assad mural in Latakia, |Wikimedia Commons

Last week, President Trump launched 59 Tomahawk-type cruise missiles against a Syrian airbase. The US has stated that the chemical gas attack that claimed the lives of at least 70 people and injured upwards of 500 others was orchestrated by the Syrian government.

There is no denying the atrocity and barbarism that ensued from the incident, but upon observing the headlines, one question immediately comes to mind: why would Assad willingly carry out a chemical gas attack if he is winning the war and knew that this move would draw controversy and retaliation from the US and the rest of the international community?

It seems as if this question was ignored by the Trump administration leading up to the airstrike, which has enraged Moscow and has many sceptics fearing the possibility of total war.

Only three weeks ago, it appeared as if the United States was shifting its focus from removing Assad to leaving the future of the conflict to “be decided by the Syrian people,” as US State Secretary Rex Tillerson said in Turkey on March 30.

All the cards were in Assad’s favour: Russia had his back, Barack Obama was no longer in office, Hillary Clinton’s interventionist foreign policy was no longer a possibility, and yet President Assad decided to drop chemical weapons on civilians, effectively committing an act of barbarism and diplomatic suicide.

Awful, average or astonishing? You decide: