Friday, April 26, 2013

Chemical Warfare in Syria

The conflict in Syria has faded slightly from our spotlight media in recent months and has been pushed completely from our minds understandably due to threats much closer to home but nonetheless the conflict rages on.  This conflict was pushed to a new level when it was suspected that government troops used some type of chemical weapon against the rebel forces in the month of April. The use of chemical weapons of any kind brings great concern to the region as well as to the US and NATO for their allies in the region and also to the UN who would like to prevent anymore humanitarian tragedies.

Israeli General Itai Brun announced this week that he highly suspected the use of chemical weapons, most likely the nerve gas Sarin, due to the physical symptoms the victims suffered before death. These statements have yet to be verified by the Israeli or US governments. (Aljazeera) If these claims turn out to be true then that definitely turns up the pressure on the international community to intervene. The international community has held back even in the face of claims of large massacres and resorted to supplying only non-lethal aid leaving them in a moral gray area on how to prevent human rights violations. President Obama has declared that the use of chemical weapons would be a red line for the United States and that it would lead to further US action in the conflict. (NY Times) He was diplomatically very vague in describing what these actions could consist of.

As of today the United States has officially announced their suspicion of the use of chemical weapons by the government on Syrian rebels. President Obama stated that if found out to be accurate it would be a game changer in the US’s approach to the conflict in Syria.

Work Cited

  • "US Urges NATO to Consider Role in Syria." N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.

  • Rudoren, David E. Sanger And Jodi. "Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons, Israel Says." The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Apr. 2013.


  1. Prediction. Obama is all talk and no game. He said he would intervene if Syria used chemical weapons. But it appears that he never really thought Assad would cross that line. The line has been crossed and reports that I have read seem to imply that Obama will not intervene. This is not good for his international image nor is it good for the image of America as a country that upholds human rights. It look like the Economist article from February 3, 2013 was wrong. Obama will not be forced to act in Syria.

  2. This is a very interesting story that has yet to unfold. In class today Michael mentioned that the US is redefining its “Red-Line” but as far as I can read with the latest information the Obama regime is still trying to gather more information and better understand what happened before it makes any decisions. It seems that we have accepted the Assad regime has used Syrian gas but that it was done in a limited enough quantity that intervention may not be necessary yet. I predict Obama will make some more verbal threats to Syria but no war will come from this. (This reminds me of the Sadam regime in Iraq, Sadam used salami tactics to cut little pieces of the metaphorical salami but making small humanitarian violations frequently so that no one single event would merit a war)
    Still, some senators like John McCain (thank god he isn’t President), and students like Lindsay WIlcocks are pushing for imminent armed intervention in Syria. This could look like supplying rebel forces with arms and imposing a no-fly-zone. This is a horrible idea! The United States of America needs to focus on us right now; we don’t have any time or money to waste in Syria. Look what Bush gave us with his two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the great depression of 2008, you can’t fight a war unless you pay for it, and we decided to put it on credit. How will we pay for a war in Syria? Major tax increases? If not then we will be farther in debt, when is enough enough? America should not be the world police, Obama is doing exactly what is right by staying out of the war in Syria.

  3. Now that there is suspected use of chemical warfare and the US is making more statements about possibility of getting involved, I'm interested to see how this story will further play out this year. The conflict had long turned from non-violent to violent with attacks coming from both the state and the rebels and for awhile it seemed the international community was on the side of the current ruling regime to quell the violence and bring back stability if Assad would only agree to more democratic principles. Now that chemical attacks have entered I'm still skeptical to think the US will want to get involved. As we talked about in class, the US doesn't see Syria as a regional or strategic asset. Thus, I think the biggest player that will increase influence from this new information will be Israel since the violence threatens their own stability. However, with everything going on here in the US President Obama may ramp up the fight against terror and want to increase US intervention in the middle east.

  4. It seems that Assad is once again testing the limits of how far he can go with the use of violence against his own population without provoking an international intervention. An article in Foreign Policy detailed how Assad has tested the waters first before fulling committing a new tactic. He started with limited shelling of residential areas and use of the air force to see how the international community would react. Once it was clear that these strategies were not intolerable to other nations, Assad scaled up their use considerably. Right now I think he is trying to measure if Obama is bluffing over his hard rhetoric against the use of chemical weapons. I think Assad would have to use a reckless quantity of chemical weapons for the United States to really consider an intervention. If Assad gets backed into a corner, I think we will definitely be seeing more use of chemical weapons.

    1. This is a very good point, and I like your analysis of Assad testing the water with Chemical Weapons. I think it is very interesting that Assad has used such small quantities of Chemical weapons in these recent attacks as Syria currently has one of the world's largest supply of Chemical weapons, I think that Assad has successfully tested the water, and there has been no consequences so far; however, Assad has just made the situation worse in the eye's of the international community and I do not think this will serve him well in the near future

  5. I read a recent article that about how the US and Obama had found evidence of chemical weapons, but is still investigating. This is interesting due to Obama's satement that the US would get involved if chemical weapons were used. The unfortunate part is the Obama administration, really doesn't have a game plan in regards to Syria not only because they aren't vested in Syria but also because it is difficult to navigate the regional implications attached to Syria. Only time will tell how the Obama administration will address the use of chemical weapons in Syria. If there is one thing that is certain, its that this civil war in Syria is far from over.

  6. In my opinion these new realizations in Syria will force the other big international players into making more definitive decisions on the topic of Syria, and by these players i mean mainly Russia and China. Both have been adamant on not involving themselves or allowing the U.N. Security Council to take action in Syria and if these chemical weapon allegations are found to be 100% true and/or if Assad uses them again against the population it will be interesting to see if those actions will be enough to make a policy change among the two countries. In the end, the responsibility of the outcome in Syria can not be placed solely on U.S. shoulders' and if the legacy of the Syrian conflict is indeed one of failed international responsibility and diplomacy the blame for that will be on everyone who stood by, not only the United States and the world will know it.

  7. I would like to point out that while it's still vague as to whether or not the Assad regime used chemical weapons, dictators using these weapons in the past have often forced international intervention upon themselves. Most notably, would be Saddam Hussein using different variants of nerve and mustard gas to kill large numbers of Iraqi Kurds. While President Obama does have a decision to make, it seems as though this conflict will continue long into the future, given that a major international power steps in. While the United States isn't ready for another military intervention in the Middle East, one can only wonder as to how to stop the killings in Syria that are fast approaching 80,000 dead.