5 Possible Repercussions of a U.S. Military Strike on Syria


3. Radical Groups Could Retaliate

Islamic extremist groups and militant groups such as Hezbollah could also plan retaliations against U.S. targets or allies, according to experts.

"There is always the possibility that Hezbollah might act out," Cordesman said. "Islamist extremist action is a possibility."

"A lot of (the reaction) depends on the specifics of how visible this strike is," said Byman. "Iran's biggest client is Hezbollah, which has problems of its own and is already deeply involved (in Syria's civil war). Iran could encourage them to be more involved, but to what degree?"

But Mike O'Halloran, of the Brookings Institute, says he thinks it's unlikely that any major actors in the region will want to entice the U.S. into becoming more involved in Syria.

"It's not exactly clear why they would want to do anything more," O'Halloran said. "Why rouse a sleeping giant? The U.S. will still be, after this, a country unlikely to become a participant in the conflict - even arming the rebels will be something we handle with kid gloves - so why would anybody on Assad's side want to change that?"

"If Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire and such an attack will, in turn, engage Syria's neighbors."

4. U.S. Accused of War Crimes

"The charges that we've faked the intelligence are already taking place," said Cordesman of the Obama administration's assertion that chemical weapons had unquestionably been used by Assad's forces on civilians.

One strategy that Syria could employ to retaliate against the U.S. is to accuse them of war crimes, Cordesman explained.

"The broader issue is what happens after the strike? (Syria) may focus on any collateral damage, real or false, to accuse the U.S. of war crimes, to go the U.N. with that," he said.

5. No Repercussions, U.S. Succeeds at Deterring Use of Chemical Weapons

Of all the potential repurcussions that could come from a strike, one U.S. expert is convinced that the biggest one will be success.

"The most likely, and it's always important to underscore that you can never count on the most likely, is it's a one-off," said O'Halloran. "It's very clear that President Obama has no more interest than that, and President Assad would be foolish to give Obama a reason or justification or necessity for doing more."

"I don't think President Obama is going to do any more than punish and deter any further chemical use, and to reestablish deterrents about weapons of mass destruction issues and behavior around the world," he said. "He will feel he's suceeded if there's not, in fact, a subsequent attack and Iran and North Korea take note."

Cordesman and Byman agreed that, if the U.S. is successful at striking Syria once, the region will be waiting to see what we do next in the broader context of the Syrian war.

"We face major uncertainties regardless of what we do," Cordesman concluded.

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