On Tuesday, new claims surfaced that the al-Assad Regime has deployed chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war. These reports seem to supplement French and British accusations, made less than a week ago against Assad's government. The reports delivered by France and Britain to the United Nations indicated the use of chemical warfare as early as December. The evidence used to make this claim points toward nerve agents present in soil samples from the cities of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus. The question remains, with increasing pressure on the United States to act, how will we respond?
What's the evidence? When and where were these weapons used? What kind of gas was it, and what does it do to its victims? Is it time for the U.S. to step up its involvement?
The reaction of the United States is important in indicating the purported "red line" drawn for the Assad regime. President Obama has made several statements indicating that the use of chemical warfare would be unacceptable. Israel has chimed into the conversation with its own evidence and reports. Two senior Israeli officials reported several incidents of the use of chemical warfare, indicating as many as five separate occasions. Their evidence lies in photographs in which victims are purportedly shown to be foaming at the mouth. Israeli officials have stated that the chemical used is a sarin-type gas and odorless agent that is able to quickly kill thousands by causing convulsions, paralysis, and respiratory failure.
Israel and other U.S. allies have called on the United States to step up its involvement following these reports. If the United States decides to ignore international pleas it will experience immense regret down the line. The danger of the allowing the use of these weapons is profound not only for the country, people, and region but for the international community as a whole. This not only sets a horrible precedent in terms of civil conflict and warfare, but it also presents a great danger. With Syria's geographical and political position, it is closely allied to very dangerous groups such as Hezbollah. If these weapons were to get into the hands of Hezbollah's militants, it would pose a threat to the state of Israel and therefore, the United States.
Israeli officials have already expressed concern over the possibility of these weapons entering the wrong hands. Regrettably, they recognize the difficulty behind destroying these weapons through strategic coordinated airstrikes. These decisions are tough to make. However, it is clear that the Obama administration must move forward and draw their own conclusions about Assad's use of chemical warfare. Press Secretary Jay Carney has already stated that there will be a thorough investigation into the matter to come to a better understanding of whether these weapons were in fact used.
Decisions need to be made swiftly. 70,000 have died so far due to this conflict and counting.