There has been a lot of uncertainties about what and how the U.S-E.U power block would respond to the recent twist in the Syrian crisis concerning the use of chemical weapons after the British parliament voted against a military action on Britain’s part. Issues ranging from the falsehood of weapons of mass destruction ‘discovery’ in Iraq; the difficulty of rebuilding a war torn country as in the cases of Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring countries; and the questions raised by Russia in particular about who is responsible for the attacks have, among other issues, been used as grounds to stall a ‘Western’ action on Syria. But there are a few points on which there is international consensus: points that by themselves necessitate an intervention in Syria.
The first is that chemical weapons have in fact been used in Syria, and that on a relatively large scale. The use of these weapons have caused the deaths of at least a thousand people. While there is less consensus on who used these weapons, it is branded as a fact that they have been used as a part of the conflict. That this has occured at all falls into the category of war crimes and somebody must take responsibility for this. I would expect that to be the Syrian government led by Mr. Assad. Though the Syrian government has continued to refute this point, it has clearly avoided answering the question about the safety of its chemical weapons. Neither has it launched an inquiry into its own institutions to find out what happened. If it has, it is not made public. In this, the Syrian government is complicit in the use of these weapons, even if there is eventual evidence that the rebels were in fact behind the attacks.
Unlike Iraq where the weapons of mass destruction(WMDs) President Bush envisioned did not exist, Syria has just experienced the use of chemical weapons, which are a subcategory of WMDs. These ones exist; they have been used; and they are out of control. If there is not a firm action to curb this trend we may likely witness the spread of chemical weapons across the explosive borders of the Middle East. Strategic thinkers know what that means. Assad does not appear to be able to bring his own chemical weapons under control, and given the firm support of Iran and Russia, I am not certain that he has any short term intention of doing so.
This brings me to the last point. It borders on the internationally accepted norm of the Responsibility to Protect. Clearly, Syria has experienced a war crime which should ordinarily invoke the use of the Responsibility to Protect norm to intervene and stop these things from continuing. The United Nations has already reported that refugees from Syria have surpassed the 2 million marker. Over 100,000 people have lost their lives, civilians that is. And another 2 million people have been internally displaced. There are comparisons being made with what happened in Rwanda in 1994. This is a humanitarian disaster that the Syrian government has failed to protect its citizens from, is incapable of emerging from by itself, and is in fact a part of the problem.
The bottom line is that whatever form this intervention takes [I’m leaving that for the military officers to think about] Assad must go, and the rebels must go as well. None of the fighting rebels have any moral grounds to take over government, as far as I know.
Syria needs help to restart. The earlier the United Nations Security Council gets this into their heads, the better.