Syria Crisis by Michael Watts
As many people are well aware, Syria is popping up everywhere in newspapers and news broadcasts around the world. Many people may have questions and demand answers on what is happening in Syria, and America’s involvement, including if other countries and the UN are taking action. Currently, the US is considering a military strike against Syria in the wake of the supposed chemical weapons attack in Damascus. UN chemical weapons inspectors investigated the scene of the attack and have collected samples for analysis. Results have not yet been released.
Many people have been wondering why the US and its allies are considering an intervention now when the conflict has already had over one thousand fatalities and forced over two million Syrians to flee their homes. President Obama stated last year that if the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad used any chemical weapons, it would be crossing a “red line.” However, when a chemical weapons strike supposedly hit the outskirts of Damascus, Western powers were concerned that a stronger response was necessary.
The US, the UK, and France were quick to call for military action and suggested having forces placed throughout the region that could be used in the event of a strike. However, the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron’s plan to join the US was exterminated after a vote in support of military intervention was rejected by Parliament on August 29. In response to the August attacks, Obama is seeking approval from Congress for military action against Syria. French President, Francois Hollande stated France was still prepared to take action even without British engagement. Also, Turkey has said it would be willing to take military action against Syria.
Options for how military strikes would be executed range from limited “punitive strikes” to establishing a no-fly zone over the country or attempting to gain control over Syria’s chemical weapons. Obama seemed to propose that any strike would be limited in nature. White House spokesman Jay Carney insisted that, “the opinions that we are considering are not about regime change.” However, Obama has stated any attack would be part of a “broader strategy” to support rebel forces and “allow Syria to ultimately free itself.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has insisted that the use of force will only be legal if it is used for self-defense or has been authorized from the UN Security Council. Many legal experts agree with Ki-moon. However, some suggest action may be allowed if there is evidence of a crime against humanity while others indicate that some states are increasingly are calling for legal interventions on humanitarian grounds. UN Security Council is expected to make a resolution authorizing action. However, this attempt will most likely be blocked by Russia and China. It is to say Western powers will want to be seen having considered all possible options before taking action. Any action from the US is being delayed while Obama awaits approval from Congress.
The Syrian government has denied the use of chemical weapons. Syrian officials said that the opposition was behind any such attacks and they were encouraged by Western powers. Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Miqdad stated on August 27 that Syria would “defeat itself against any international attack” and cautioned it would cause “chaos in the entire world.” Syria’s allies Russia and Iran have also been critical in their interventions. Russia has stated that there wasn’t any proof the Syrian government took part in the attack in Damascus and has warned of “catastrophic consequences” of any intervention, calling it a “grave violation of international law.” Although Russia is unlikely to be drawn into any direct confrontation, correspondents say it may increase weapons supplies to Damascus in retaliation.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said an intervention would be a “disaster.” Other Iranian officials in the past warned of consequences for the region and recently threatened that Israel would be attacked in return. Speculation suggests that Lebanese militant Shia movement Hezbollah, allied with Iran and is fighting alongside government troops in Syria, might fire rockets against Israel in response to any Western strike.