Chemical Weapons in Syria – A Potential Turning Point – RantAWeek
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Chemical Weapons in Syria – A Potential Turning Point

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Posted by Tyler Miksanek on August 27, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Believe it or not, the bloody conflict now known as the Syrian Civil War started out in 2011 with a glimmer of hope.  It was originally viewed as an expansion of the Arab Spring protests and had the laudable goal of wresting power from autocratic Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.  Unfortunately, Assad’s government responded with violence, refusing to acquiesce to the demands of the rebels, and rebel groups have been fighting government-led forces ever since.  The resulting violence has led to a estimated death toll of over 100,000.  Even in the face of this devastating statistic, world leaders have still been hesitant to support the rebels, largely due to the influence of al-Qaeda among certain rebel factions.  While the rebels have received some assistance over the course of the two year conflict, it has been extremely limited.

Although Assad has been able to count on minimal interference from Western nations in Syria’s conflict in the past, the situation is changing rapidly, and he may have pushed his luck too far.  Evidence has been stacking up that Assad’s government not only has been using chemical weapons, but also that these weapons have been used against innocent civilians.  These actions are grievous violations of international law.  With these new revelations about Assad’s likely war crimes, rhetoric against Assad’s government has been increasing.  President Obama has previously stated that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would cross a red line and trigger foreign intervention.  It is unclear exactly what that foreign intervention will be, although the fear of becoming entangled in yet another drawn out conflict in the Middle East will likely pressure the U.S. to favor strategies like missile strikes over more direct military combat.

This backlash against Assad’s regime goes beyond the borders of the U.S., and international support seems to be lining up for military intervention.  One country, however, is withholding support for any intervention.  Russia, which has been vociferously arguing for Western powers to stay away from the Syrian conflict over the past two years, still has yet to change its position.  Increased tensions with Russia will have to be a risk factored into any intervention plan in Syria, but it does appear that the vast majority of Western nations, including the permanent U.N. Security Council members France, the U.K. and the U.S., are advocates of some form of intervention.

Even if a limited missile strike is the ultimate intervention these allies (among other nations) decide on, extreme caution still needs to be exercised.  Assad’s government may be committing grievous atrocities, but that doesn’t mean the rebels are saints.  Western nations are sure to fear creating a power vacuum that could allow al-Qaeda affiliated groups to seize more power in the midst of the destruction the war has caused.  Syria is currently a breeding ground for terrorism and, as we all now know, also has chemical weapons.  These weapons are bad enough in the hands of Assad, but they could be even worse in the hands of extremists.

Syria is an extremely delicate situation, but many world leaders have finally decided a line has been crossed that calls for intervention.  Let’s all hope that whatever intervention actually occurs is a success.  Thousands of lives, and stability in an increasingly unstable Middle East, depend on it.

Update: World leaders have avoided a direct military strike on Syria in favor of a deal that allows chemical weapons to be confiscated and taken out of Assad’s control.  Follow this link for more information.

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