Syria Civil War: Chemical Attack Has U.S. Officials Debating Proper Response

A day later, and we are still no closer to finding out if Syria actually used a chemical weapon in the attack near Aleppo. The Syrian government and rebels are busy blaming one another for the rocket attack that killed 26 people. Members of Congress are calling on the president to take a more direct approach in removing Syria’s chemical weapons but no one is saying what form that approach should take. 

The former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says that he has not seen any evidence that indicates the use of chemical weapons. He told reporters that any deployment of chemical weapons would have serious consequences for the Assad regime. He did not elaborate on what those consequences might be.  

Syria has the worlds largest stockpile of chemical weapons. Rep. Mike Rogers, the House Intelligence Committee chairman, said that the U.S. has a duty to secure those stockpiles. Rogers believes that the stockpiles can be secured without direct military involvement. He did not list what other ways the U.S. might have of doing this, citing a desire to not openly discuss U.S. capabilities. 

The State Department issued a statement yesterday that rejected President Bashar Assad’s claim that rebels had used chemical weapons.  

"We have no reason to believe that these allegations represent anything more than the regime's continued attempts to discredit the legitimate opposition and distract from its own atrocities committed against the Syrian people.”

Two leading Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, are waiting to see if the reports on chemical weapons will be substantiated. In a joint-statement released Tuesday, they said that if a chemical attack is verified, the presidents “red line” barometer for intervention would be satisfied. The two are referring to statements made by the president back in August when he threatened to use military force should Assad use chemical weapons.

No one in the administration or Congress is willing to explicitly spell out what kind of action the U.S. should take. That’s because neither party wants to be seen as advocating for war, nor do they want to ignore a real threat to the Syrian people. Assad understands this and he will continue to push boundaries as he attempts to find out just how serious the U.S. is about protecting the Syrian people.

Intervention in Syria is inevitable but do not expect the U.S. to act unilaterally. If the U.S. does respond by force, it will only do so as part of a broad international coalition. 

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Andrea Ayres-Deets

PM Politics Intern- M.A. in Writing from the University of Warwick. Lover of sci-fi, awkward situations, and coffee.

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