Chemical attack in Syria

Photo courtesy Wikimedia

Jose Rodriguez

The Syrian war has been a complicated war that started as a civil war six years ago. Different allies’ interests, rebels own conflicts and use of chemical weapons have been some of the countless layers that surround this war.

One of the most worrying factors for international organizations and nations is the use of chemical weapons throughout the Syrian war since it violates the International Humanitarian Law ban on the usage of weapons.

Such weapons include exploding bullets, chemical and biological weapons, blinding laser weapons and anti-personnel mines according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Adding to the conflict of using chemical weapons already created is the fact that many civilians have been killed during these attacks. It is here where already complicated things get even more complicated with the Syrian government blaming rebels, while rebels and countries like the U.S. blame the Syrian government and Russia gives unconvincing explanations to the United Nations.

While there have been numerous chemical attacks, there are two major attacks that have awakened the response of the U.S. to a certain degree. First, an Aug. 21, 2013 chemical attack at suburbs of the Ghouta area of Damascus region which is believed to have killed from 200 to 1000 according to different media reports.

President Barack Obama then said in an address to the American people on September 2013, “A failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction.” Obama then expressed his determination to respond to the Assad’s regime use of chemical weapons with a “targeted military strike.” Such response never came to fruition during the Obama administration, which would later become a point of criticism by the Trump administration.

But the conflict here is that there is no conclusive information about who made such attacks. Did the rebels do it? Was it Bashar al-Assad’s armed forces? There is a problem with pointing fingers without really reaching solid conclusions. The war itself is full of contradictions involving rebels groups, the U.S. fighting Assad’s regime and then the Islamic State (ISIS).

The second controversial attack occurred Apr. 4, 2017 in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held town. Allegedly, the attack killed more than 80 people. This attack is important because not only is this the first time the United Nations has officially blamed the Syrian government of chemical attacks, but because the U.S. has directly attacked Assad’s government. President Donald Trump ordered an attack on Apr. 6. with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to a Syrian airbase, which is believed to be where the Khan Sheikhoun attacks originated. Then again, even this brings contradictory accounts. According to a TIME article, a Russian military says only 23 missiles reached their target, while a U.S. official claims 58.

To add more trouble to the situation is the fact that in September 2013 Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention and tried to comply with Russia’s advices on chemical weapons following the 2013 Ghouta attack.

Looking at the current evidence and ongoing investigations regarding the April attack, taking more military actions against Syria would not be prudent. There are many layers regarding not only chemical weapons but the real reasons of the war and the interests of the nations involved. On top of this, on Nov. 8, the Syrian military claimed to have captured ISIS’ last stronghold in Albu Kamal. Intervening in this very moment would cause imbalance again and the loss of any stability gained at this point.