Recent reports of sarin gas used by the regime in Syria have sparked questions of whether the actions cross President Obama's "red line" in relation to foreign intervention. The United Nations already issued a statement that called for countries to reduce the availability of arms in Syria. Although the United States believes that further testing and confirmation is needed to firmly identify the use of chemical weapons, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius stated "There is sarin gas ... there is no doubt it is the Syrian regime and its accomplices".
Sarin gas is an extremely toxic chemical agent that damages the nervous system by over stimulating muscles and organs. When used as a weapon and administered in high doses, Sarin gas immobilizes the body's vital functions, leading to death in the matter of minutes. Simply by releasing the agent into the air people may be exposed through skin or eye contact. Other forms of transmission include, food, water, or clothing. The agent evaporates incredibly quickly but it has a huge and immediate impact in the time of its brief period of exposure. Although treatment is available, because the heavy symptoms like paralysis and loss of consciousness happen so quickly, there is little use.
Sarin gas has been used in the Middle East in the past. In 1984, Iraq began stockpiling sarin gas and was in possession of over 790 tons of the substance by the year 1995. Saddam Hussein used the chemical agent in 1988 in Halabja, which confirmed 5,000 people dead and left over 65,000 others with incredibly severe chronic respiratory symptoms.
The use of such a grave weapon, according to the President Obama, must lead to some type of action. However, according to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the claims do not have any credibility. The United States must come to a conclusion on the presence and use of chemical weapons before acting on the claims. International powers like Russia are working with the United States to foster peace talks to stop the warring parties in Syria. The region's volatility, and especially the British and French allegations of Sarin gas use, may force the United States to formulate a different approach to Syrian peace talks. The use of chemical weapons is a violation of human rights, and if it becomes widely confirmed, the United Nations may hold a summit to deal with the problem. Citing Syrian human rights violations in the past, the United Nations has already stated any weapons provided to any Syrian faction would not be tolerated. As the United States gathers more intelligence, only time will tell how the States reacts to the alleged Syrian use of sarin.