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Chemical weapons in Syria: what should the international community do?

by AirTalk®

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Syrian men inspect the scene of a car bomb explosion in Jaramana, a mainly Christian and Druze suburb of Damascus. STR/AFP/Getty Images

Conflict in Syria is escalating, with rumors circulating about the Assad regime’s possession of chemical weapons driving international diplomacy talks and intervention.

Unnamed American officials stated that the Syrian military has loaded the chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs, ready to be deployed at Assad’s orders. Members of Assad’s regime have rebuffed the reports, insisting that they would never use such weapons against Syrians and claiming that chemical warfare is being used as an excuse for international intervention. A video allegedly shows the Syrian military using white phosphorous gas, which is legal if being used to light the sky at night, but illegal when used as a weapon.

President Obama has warned against the use of chemical weapons against the rebels, citing unspecified consequences. Secretary of State Clinton is discussing the crisis with her Russian counterpart, in hopes of a breakthrough that could preempt excessive violence. There have been reports of rebel advancements, but Assad’s regime has so far denied their validity.

What is the best way to pursue diplomatic relations in Syria? Is there a way to begin resolution before the use of chemical weapons? What would be the appropriate reaction from the U.S. and other nations if they were deployed in Syria?


Joshua Landis, Director, Center for Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma; Writes the blog

Mark Jacobson, Senior Transatlantic Fellow, The German Marshall Fund of the United States

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