Image Credits: HASSAN AMMAR/AP
For upwards of seven years, the country of Syria has been entangled in a civil war. It has claimed the lives of thousands of citizens and left millions displaced. The heartbreaking situation has been in and out of the news cycle over the years. Many seem to have resigned themselves to the fact that there is no end in sight. However, following a suspected chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma on April 7th, world leaders have once again joined forces. They are investigating possible courses of action for the international community to consider.
Here is what we know, and what our leaders have discussed:
Has the chemical attack been confirmed?
Yes and no. The Syrian government under Bashar al-Assad vehemently denied the accusation. In addition, the Russian government, which has allied itself with the Assad regime in the midst of the nation’s conflict, has also denied the allegation. Russia is also claiming that the supposed chemical attack was staged by an anti-Russian regime – namely, Great Britain. Britain has refuted any such allegations.
However, the evidence in favor of the occurrence of an Assad-initiated chemical attack is strong. It has been reported that citizens of Douma had “symptoms consistent with a chemical attack.” Of the approximately 70 that were killed, over half showed signs of exposure to “highly toxic chemicals.” This weekend, investigators from a chemical weapons watchdog organization will officially determine whether or not the attack took place, but there is concern that Syrian government forces will resist against the investigation.
Based upon the Assad regime’s history with chemical weapons, it is likely that the attack was government-initiated. United States ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley spoke before the security council Friday morning, claiming that the United States has estimated that Assad-backed forces were responsible for over 50 instances of chemical weapon use over the duration of this seven-year conflict.
In short, while the attack has been contested by both the Syrian and Russian governments, there is both historical evidence and current proof that the Syrian government unleashed yet another chemical attack on its people.
Douma was a rebel-controlled area of the country It was also one of the last opposition strongholds in the region. The region has been engaged in a bloody battle as Assad-backed forces fought to gain control, and rebel groups have reportedly fallen to the government following the chemical attack. This attack is speculated to be the Assad regime’s final attempt at attaining total control of the region. With the Syrian flag having been raised in the city, it was successful.
How are world leaders responding?
World leaders are voicing support for the people of the war-stricken nation. They have been discussing options for dealing with the government forces that have overtaken much of the country. Not only must leaders grapple with their next move in challenging the Syrian government authority, but they must discern how to respond to countries like Russia and Iran, which are supporting the Assad rule.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed a desire to pursue action against Assad, and her office reported that she and President Trump would work closely in determining what that would look like.
French President Emmanuel Macron claimed to have further evidence of Assad’s responsibility for the attack. When asked if he would partake in military strikes, he said he would “take decisions in due course.” He has previously stated that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line,” meaning that the use of such weapons would provoke action on France’s part, although the extent of such action has not been clarified.
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As for Russia, its leaders are continuing to deny involvement asserting that the attack was a “fabrication” on the part of Great Britain. Again, Great Britain has condemned that charge. The Russian government also threatened to shoot down any missiles launched by the United States on Syria.