Syria: The red line

CC Image courtesy of Bidna Capoeira on Flickr

CC Image courtesy of Bidna Capoeira on Flickr

In June 2013 the U.S. intelligence confirmed limited chemical weapon use stating “the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition mutable times in the last year.” In December of 2012 Obama said, “I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

The White House identified several incidents where it believed chemical weapons had been used. On march 19 in Aleppo suburb of Khan al Asal, april 13th in the Aleppo neighborhood of Sheikh Maksud, May 14th in Qar Abu Samra (north of Homs) and on May 23rd in an attack in eastern Damascus. On August the 22 shocking images filled television screens and newspaper covers worldwide in another chemical attack in a Damascus suburb. This attack however surpassed the others in its size and left hundreds of people killed. People across the world were confronted with images of dead and suffocating Syrians, many of them children, and were appalled about what they saw. The incident flared great outrage among citizens and governments around the world. But also shed confusion on the identity of perpetrators of this violent act.

Thus one of the primary concerns for the U.S. and other international policymakers is, as it has been for some time, the status of the Syrian military’s control over a large amount of conventional and non-conventional weapon stockpiles. These stockpiles include chemical weapons, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, surface-to-surface rockets, armored weapons, explosives and small arms. U.S. officials are confident that they have reliable estimates of the quantities and locations of Syrian chemical weapons and have indicated that a “extensive network” of related facilities is being monitored “very closely” by ways of unspecified means. Reports on Syria suggest that the production and storage of nerve and mustard gas are located in and around Al Safira, Damascus, Hamah, Latakia and Homs tough stockpiles may be dispersed in other military locations around the country. The U.S. sees it as a priority to find and secure stockpiles in the wake of any sudden collapse of the Assad regime. U.S. government assessments estimate that it would require the amount of 75.000 military personnel to fully secure the potential WMD-related sites in Syria, fearing it could fall into the wrong hands. It fears some chemical agents may fall into the hands of one of the extremist groups now operating in Syria. In Turkey fighters from the Al Nusra front, one of the more effective combat groups, have been seized with large amount of sarin confirming these fears. Mainly Israel has voiced similar concerns stating they will consider any indication that the Assad regime is transferring WMD materials to Hezbollah or non-state actors to be an act of war.

So, the ‘red line’ has been crossed and the question that remains is what this red line will entail for the people that crossed it?

The Syrian conflict seems to have developed into a conflict of massacres. Where factions have stopped with conventional fighting and started a sectarian fueled war of the massacres. What did people see on the 22nd of august if not the meaningless slaughter of innocent people? Was what they saw ‘crossing the red line?’ The fact is the red line consisted of the meaningless killing and suffering of man, women and children. The fact is that while all factions keep exercising their violent ways to come to power, the suffering of the ordinary Syrian continues. And while the world keeps to their daily business, the end to the Syrian conflict seems a distant mirage vaporizing with each blow that is dealt to the innocence of a countries people.

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