Cui bono?, literally “to whom is it a benefit?”, is a Latin phrase related to the identification of crime suspects, expressing a utilitarian view that the perpetrator of a crime may be found among those who have something to gain, chiefly with an eye toward financial gain. The party which benefits may not always be obvious or may have successfully diverted attention to a scapegoat, for example. Wikipedia
It appears as a textbook case that the apparent and yet to be confirmed (by the UN and Chemical Weapons inspectors) chemical weapons attack in Syria found three enthusiastic responders in Trump (USA), Macron (France) and May (UK).
A simple analysis of the situation these three governments find themselves in shows they are in dire need of an external enemy as they are in real trouble in their own countries. As smokescreens go, nothing better than a little war. But, can anybody outsmart the Russians at Russian roulette? Bizarrely this attack also benefits Putin, proving Russians are also at risk from other countries, but by now we should be used to these “strange bedfellows” who maintain each other in power although they appear to be enemies. Orwell couldn’t have made it up better.
Trump is dealing with the Russian interference on the elections which could make him an impeached president, the kids mobilising against guns massacres, claims of sexual misconduct, his lawyer’s office being raided by police taking confidential papers, the courts invalidating his xenophobic policies, various books denouncing his dodgy practices, and a near complete consensus in the international arena that he is a liar, an unreliable flip-flopper, and a sociopath. Following this guy does no seem sane.
For Macron in France the honeymoon is over. He has stated that he will stick to his plans for sweeping reforms, increasing taxes, reducing pensions, in general following the road of austerity economics, despite strikes and street protests. He has expressed his views that he does not much care for public opinion. Not likely to ask the French people if they would like to be involved in a war then.
Prime Minister Theresa May in the UK finds herself in a minority government depending on a small and retrograde Northern Irish Party to stay in power, dealing badly with the Brexit quagmire, terrified of the gains made by the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn (who very reasonably is asking governments to wait for the UN investigation before acting, and a negotiated solution to the war) and with local elections fast approaching in May. The Russiaphobic card has already been played around the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter which remains murky to say the least.
On the other hand it has been pointed out by many analysts that there is no benefit for Assad in this (real or staged) chemical attack, as with Russian support he has been gaining ground and his position looks rather assured. Instead, the rebels, that include various jihadist groups, would benefit greatly from an attack by Western powers to punish the Syrian government (the scapegoat?).
The number of violent factions in Syria and surrounding area vying for control of Oil and territory could not be more complex. Saudi Arabia competing with Iran for control of the Miidle East, Israel paranoid that Iran and Hezbollah are getting a foothold in Syria from where to attack it, the Kurds fighting jihadies but attacked by Turkey fearful they will become strong and establishing a separate country, USA and other Western powers sending troops and arms to various factions (some of them officially in the terrorist list) without acknowledging their presence and intentions. Any of them may have hidden agendas that would benefit from “crossing the red line”.
Today’s missile attack carried out by the trio of USA, France and UK is unlikely to affect the outcome of the war, and threatens an escalation that will only kill more civilians and entrench the various actors positions.
Peace by negotiation is the only possible resolution to the conflict but cui bono? Only the Syrian people.