Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Discourse on the Syrian Conflict: Possible Responses to Assad's Alleged Use of Chemical Weapons

Violence near Turkey-Syria border as Syrian refugees try to illegally cross the border

The United States government is still investigating details about the supposed use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against the rebellion movement. US Defense secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed this on Monday. The US government released a statement last week indicating the the Syrian government has likely used chemical weapons against the rebels on two separate occasions. It is unclear at this time how severe these attacks were. Congress’ calls for proactive measures - e.g. declaring a no-flyzone - have become increasingly louder over the course of the week.
President Obama declared that the Syrian government would cross a red line by resorting to the use of chemical weapons against its own civilians. Hagel, however, was reluctant to discuss any questions about a possible military intervention as the investigation surrounding the recent events is ongoing.
Meanwhile, preventative measures have been taken at a Turkish hospital located near the Turkey-Syria border for the treatment of Syrians injured in the attacks. It was reported that dozens of Syrian rebellions may have been injured in an attack involving chemical weapons, as was confirmed from sources from inside the Turkish hospital on Tuesday.
Assad during a rare public appearance
The use of chemical weapons is considered to be crossing a red line in the international political community. Though there is no conclusive evidence of such warfare tactics occurring in Syria, the possibility and accusations elevates the situation to a new level. The international political community, NATO, and the US in particular, have various options to consider in their efforts to aid the people of Syria. 
One, is military action and sending forces to Syria. Obama issued a warning to Assad last August, stating that if he resorted to the use of chemical weapons - or preparing them for use - that would be considered crossing a red line with “enormous consequences”. Prior to that, Obama made the statement that Assad’s government would be held accountable. 
Another possibility is for the US to increase their support for the opposition movement. So far, the US has supported the rebels with non-lethal aid. Recently, the Obama administration announced that they would continue and increase their support - up to $250 million worth of assistance. While the supply of arms is one of the various options currently in consideration, that option is to be refrained from until there is conclusive evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The careful selection and supplying the rebels with arms would greatly increase the movement’s appeal in Syria and its effectiveness in their struggle against the authoritarian regime under Assad.
Lastly, NATO needs to consider its role in the Syrian conflict and assess their capabilities and preparation for a possible intervention. The US secretary of state has urged NATO to consider how they are prepared to respond to threats by Syria. Thusfar, NATO has expressed of having no intention to using military intervention in the Syrian conflict. Though there is concern for a possible regional threat to some of its 28 member states, NATO maintains that they will not intervene militarily. If conclusive evidence shows that Assad has in fact used chemical weapons against Syrians, however, NATO and the US government will have to take preventative action to protect its member states and hold firm on their outward political values.
The situation remains uncertain while the investigation is ongoing, but it appears that an intervention by the international community is imminent. The Syrian civil war is an ongoing conflict lasting over 2 years at this time and recent escalations are troublesome. It is recommended that the international community watch closely as the conflict continues and take measures to protect the people of Syria and aid them in their mission to establish an appropriately representative government regime.

Lin Nouheid, Alex Warren. "The Battle for the Arab Spring"
Al Jazeera. “Gauging Hezbollah’s role in Syria” <>
CNN. “For Syria, chemical weapons also a ‘red line, information minister says” <>
New York Times. “Israel Says It Has Proof That Syria Used Chemical Weapons”. <

Deutsche Welle. "NATO worried about Syrian chemical weapons"

Al Jazeera. “US urges NATO to consider role in Syria” <


  1. While I think that the U.S. might eventually send troops, I still don't think this will be the determining factor. If anything I think that more aid will be sent. It seems like the U.S. has already been hesitant to send troops even while Assad has committed other horrific acts against his people, not just chemical warfare. I also wonder if the U.S. will decide to send aid that doesn't have the restrictions that have been previously placed on it.

  2. I am quite certain that the United States will not put boots on the ground. I think the question we need to evaluate is what is the threat against the United States? What about US foreign interest? Right now, it is a very minimal threat. The only real concern about chemical weapons would be if they got into the hands of extremists. In regards, to US interests, I would probably say are largest concern should be the possibility for destabilization of surrounding countries. A follow-up question would be, what does it take to protect this interest, and what is success? The US does not want to get heavily involved in the Middle East. While Obama said chemical weapons was the red line, I don't see any drastic actions coming down the pipeline.

  3. I don't believe that there will be any intervention into Syria on the part of the U.S. I believe that we need to be concern about Syria containing weapons, but at the same time I think it would be the best if the U.S. doesn't muddy the waters with their involvement. I do agree with the comment that we need to focus more on other surrounding countries next to Syria. We need to extract ourselves from the Syrian crisis because it is a long lost cause to fix. We need to ensure that there isn't a spill over effect in other neighboring countries next to Syria. We have a better chance at saving neighboring countries next to Syria from violence, than saving Syria at this point.

  4. if the US finds significant sources of oil, do you think they may then intervene?

  5. After reading this I keep asking myself, does Syria want to recover and stabilize? Why is Assad still able to act against the country in such way as using chemical weapons? I guess my first thought after finishing this article is that the United States better not get more involved in Syria for many reasons. With all the trouble happening in our own country right now, we dont need to be poking in a country that will continue to present trouble. I have read a lot on Syria and am confused why rebellion groups have not been more successful in their restructuring of the country and why they still seem so weak against a regime that has fallen especially considered the amount of support they have internally and from other countries in the region like Qatar. The rebellion groups should be removing corrupt violent leaders like Assad and cleaning all remanents of the previous government but this article makes the rebel movement in Syria seem like its not going anywhere. My overall feeling is that more countries in the MENA regions should offer more support the Syria and the United States should not overstretch itself in a country that has no benefit for us and really after tragedies like a chemical weapon attack against their own people is just a lost cause. This seems like a negative analysis and outlook, but this Syria conflict is going to drag out for ever and even though they are crossing the line by what they did it is not our business

  6. Obama has said that the use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer."Now it is time for U.S. intervention, nonlethal aid has had little to no tangible effects in combating Assad. Intervention can shorten the conflict, and nonlethal aid has done little, diplomatic intervention in virtually impossible as the rebels lack a unified command and the international community will never allow for another libya type NATO intervention. The U.S.'s only option is military aid. We know from class lecture that the type of intervention does matter as does the timing, if we dont help the rebels/population now they may not stand a chance and Assad will continue his reign of terror. There will be repercussions, perhaps from Iran, or Russia but as the a world superpower with the strongest military around we should not fear anyone else, human rights must be protected and democracy promoted, the majority of the Syrian population wants our help in creating their own free and fair state.