Chemical Weapons In Syria

BY JAMIE REESE
SC News Editor

On August 21, 2013, the Syrian Arab Republic government allegedly dropped chemical weapons in a suburb of Damascus, their capital city.

This claim was originally made by rebel groups of Syria who claim the weapons were dropped by the government late in the night.

Since then, chemical weapons specialists of the United Nations have found traces of nerve gas in the area, and about 1,500 people are reported dead.

Because of their destructiveness and potential for death on a large scale, as was made apparent by their use in World War I, many countries banned the use of chemical weapons in 1925 in what is known as the Geneva Protocol.

Syria signed the Geneva Protocol because at the time, Syria was newly established by a French mandate. If chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government, then it follows that international law was broken.

Despite the apparent use of chemical weapons, however, there has yet to be any definitive evidence that the Syrian government is responsible.

Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, denies the use of chemical weapons by his regime.

The areas targeted by the chemical weapons are all rebel-rich when compared to most other parts of the country, and this makes many, including the Obama administration doubt President al-Assad.

“Not one rocket landed in regime-controlled territory, not one. All of them landed in opposition-controlled or contested territory,” said Secretary of State John Kerry September 3.

The Obama Administration also claims to have classified evidence of the Syrian government’s responsibility for the attacks.

“We can tell you beyond any reasonable doubt that our evidence proves the Assad regime prepared for this attack, issued instruction to prepare for this attack, (and) warned its own forces to use gas masks,” said Kerry.

Russian President Vladimir Putin still doubts the Syrian government’s guilt. He believes that the chemical attacks were made by rebels as provocation against al-Assad’s regime.

“Will we help Syria? We will. And we are already helping – we send arms, we co-operate in the economic sphere,” said Putin at the recent G20 summit in Russia.

Despite the Russian opposition to U.S. involvement, the Obama Administration planned for isolated bombings for a short duration.

“If we don’t answer Assad today, we will erode a standard that has existed for those hundred years,” said Kerry.

Skeptics of this strategy protested alternative methods of recourse.

According to a Washington Post interview on September 6, House Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey is proposing a war crimes tribunal against both al-Assad and the rebel groups for their war crimes.

“What I’ve seen is that if there’s the political will to go after people who have committed crimes against humanity, and if you have a dedicated team of prosecutors, then it’s a non-lethal way of holding people to account,” said Smith.

On September 9, however, after receiving pressure from Russia, Assad agreed to relinquish Syria’s chemical weapons.

If that happens, President Obama claims he will pause military actions.

“If we can do that without a military strike, that is overwhelmingly my preference,” said the president.

Email Jamie at:
jreese6@live.esu.edu

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