Last week, Syria’s opposition forces accused President Bashar al-Assad’s government of using chemical weapons to kill hundreds of Syrian civilians during a nighttime raid in the early hours of Aug. 21 near the capital city of Damascus.
The Syrian government strongly denies involvement in the attack, but much of the international community, including the United Nations, remains skeptical. France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French news network BFM- TV that his country could react with force if it is proven that chemical weapons were used.
The Syrian government granted permission for a group of U.N. inspectors to investigate the area where the chemical attacks allegedly occurred but not until five days after the attacks generated international attention.
On Monday, Aug. 26, the group of U.N. weapons inspectors reported that snipers shot at their convoy while they were en route to investigate the suburbs where the attacks were said to have occurred. The BBC reports that one vehicle was shot at multiple times and the convoy was forced to turn back.
The inspectors have been in Syria since Aug. 18 when they arrived to investigate chemical attacks that allegedly occurred earlier this year.
The U.N. estimates that more than 100,000 people have been killed in the Syrian civil war since the conflict began more than two years ago.
President Obama said last year that the U.S. could intervene militarily if chemical weapons were used in Syria.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” Obama said in a White House briefing last August.
Maia Hallward, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at KSU, said what’s been happening in Syria is horrible, but she doesn’t think U.S. military involvement would solve the problems.
“I think U.S. military involvement has the potential to make things a lot worse,” Hallward said. “But of course, there’s a range of military involvement.
“There’s military involvement in terms of establishing a no-fly zone, which is a very different type of military involvement than establishing a ground invasion,” she continued. “I don’t think a ground invasion is a good use of U.S. troops.”
She said Syria has had “years of really rampant civil war and high civilian casualties.”
Hallward said that if the U.S. goes in alone, it could be viewed by many in the region as an, “Israeli proxy, which could further destabilize the region and undermine any U.S. goals.”
“If the U.S. goes in,” she said, “it should be part of a broader regional strategy.”
Anti-government activists accuse the Syrian regime of firing rockets with poisonous gas heads in the Aug. 21 attack.
Other alleged attacks:
March 19: Both sides claim rockets carrying chlorine are used by the other side in the village of Khan al-Assal
March 24: Syrian opposition fighters claim Syrian forces fire chemical weapons from rocket launchers in the town if Adra
March 26: U.N. Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon appoints Swedish professor Ake Sellstrom to investigate Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons
April 25: A rocket allegedly spews poison gas on Daraya, a Damascus suburb
April 26: U.S. President Barack Obama tells reporters that Syrian use of chemical weapons “crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues”
April 29: A Syrian government helicopter reportedly drops munitions carrying sarin at Saraqeb
June 13: The White House releases a statement saying that following an investigation, “Our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multpile times in the last year”
August 18: A U.N. team of experts arrives in Syria to launch an investigation
August 21: Syria’s opposition accuses government forces of gassing hundreds of people near Damascus