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26.1 Should the use of chemical weapons in 2013 have been a red line triggering international intervention in Syria?

1. Who has used chemical weapons in Syria? How does that affect your opinion about international intervention?

  • It remains unclear who uses chemical weapons in Syria. Many suggest that both/all sides involved in the Syrian civil war have used chemical weapons. The question is thus: which side must the international community respond to?

2. Why did the US not intervene after the 'red line' was first crossed?

  • Many stress that intervention should be a last resort. Diplomacy must be exhausted before intervention is a legitimate response. In 2013, the Syrian government acknowledged its possession of chemical weapons and assured their destruction.
  • Moreover, costs of intervention were considered by many too high.
  • However, others criticized Obama for his lack of intervention. Having announced American action in the event that chemical weapons are used, Obama's non-intervention was seen as a sign of American weakness and inconsistency.

3. If not the use of chemical weapons, what factors have determined when and how world powers have responded to the crisis in Syria?

  • Fear over the rising power of the Islamic State, and its increasing ability to acquire and use chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict have spurred international intervention recently. As of late 2015, there is increasing evidence to suggest IS's use of chemical weapons. Further, there is growing concern that Syria may not have reported everything that it possesses in terms of chemical weapons.