In the last few days, there have been reports of chemical weapons attacks in Syria. Though not enough time has elapsed to have a full investigation, eye witness accounts tell of the Syrian government attacking rebel-held areas with chlorine gas. Given that we know that the forces of Syrian dictator Bashir al Assad have used chemical weapons on several occasions in the civil war in Syria, with investigation and confirmation of their use by several international organizations, there is little doubt that the government has used chemical weapons on its own people again.
The repeated use of chemical weapons against his own people shows the level of depravity of Syria’s President Assad. It also shows the depravity of Syria’s allies, Iran and Russia and the terrorist group Hezbollah, all of whom have military forces in Syria aiding and fighting along side Assad’s military. (As an aside, for those who equate Israel to their enemies and other countries in the region, this should be one example of why that position is a false one-there is a distinct moral difference on a very basic level).
Russia, of course, has towed the same line as the Syrian government and said that it wasn’t the government but the rebels that used the weapons. Of course there is no explanation offered on why rebels would use weapons against rebel held areas or how they would get the technology or the facilities to make the weapons.
The attacks show how difficult and complicated it can be to be the world’s superpower. President Trump had commented only days before that he was going to decide soon when to pull out US advisers and Special Forces engaged in helping the rebels in the civil war in Syria. Was this attack linked to that? Did Assad feel that if the US was getting ready to pull out that he could safely use chemical weapons? And does this change the decision on removing support from the rebels, or even argue that the US should make more of a commitment to fighting the monster Assad.?
We may never know the calculations that went into the attack. However, we can be confident that Russia had advance notice since Assad would not potentially jeopardize his support from Russia by doing something so significant without prior approval. And so this is also significant in that regard. This attack, and Russian propaganda to cover it up, comes right after more than 20 nations expelled Russian diplomats and imposed various sanctions on Russia for their attempt to kill two ex-Russian citizens living in Britain. Combined with invasion of neighboring Georgia and Ukraine in the last 15 years, it’s clear that Russia is becoming a rogue state itself. And a rogue state with a large military that it’s willing to use against its neighbors and in other parts of the world.
President Obama infamously said the use of chemical weapons by Assad would cross a ‘red line’ and promised action if that happened, only to do almost nothing when Assad killed hundreds of his own people with chemical weapons. President Trump has said that the world cannot allow the use of weapons of mass destruction to happen without punishment and that there will be “a big price to pay”. Assad has used weapons banned by international law several times now, even after agreeing to give them up totally after international outrage after the first time he used them. Let’s hope that President Trump is more true to his warning than was President Obama. And let’s hope that the price to pay is very high, and long lasting.