Britain joined the United States and France in a round of punitive military strikes in Syria on Friday night. The Coalition was retaliating for a poison gas attack by Bashar al-Assad’s regime in the Duma area of Damascus on 7 April. The three targets the Allies went after were related to his chemical weapons program. This was a just operation that upheld the norms of the international system, but there are disturbing signs that it will not be linked to a course correction in Syria. Continue reading →
A child receiving oxygen after a poison gas attack in Douma, near Damascus, Syria || SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE WHITE HELMETS VIA AP
A year to the day after the United States struck at a Syrian airbase to punish Bashar al Assad for a chemical weapons attack, the regime has suspectedly carried out another devastating chemical atrocity. Signs are that the United States will, again, respond with force, attempting to rescue some part of the fraying international taboo against the use of poison gas. The larger question remains how Assad has gotten away with this for so long—and why murder only with certain categories of munitions prompts retaliation. Continue reading →
United Nations Security Council (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)
After the use of chemical weapons of mass destruction (CWMD) in the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun in April, American and French intelligence publicly assessed that the perpetrator was the regime of Bashar al-Asad, and President Donald Trump acted swiftly to punish the atrocity. The United Nations Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic released a report on 6 September that ratifies these findings, concluding that Asad attacked the population of Khan Shaykhun with chemical weapons. Continue reading →
The French government has released its assessment of the 4 April chemical weapons attack in Syria, and “independently and categorically confirms that sarin was used”. France “deployed the required resources to obtain its own samples,” the report notes, and “collected biomedical and environmental samples and munitions and pieces of munitions” from this attack site and several prior. Continue reading →
Aftermath of the Khan Shaykhun chemical attack (source)
The United States’ cruise missile strikes in Syria in the early hours of 7 April devastated the Shayrat airbase from which, U.S. intelligence assesses, the regime of Bashar al-Assad launched the nerve agent attack on Khan Shaykhun on 4 April. The U.S. has now released its fuller assessment of the chemical attack, which includes a record of Assad’s routine use of chemical munitions since 2013. This comes amid ongoing gridlock at the United Nations Security Council, where, during a volatile session yesterday, Russia’s deputy representative, Vladimir Safronkov, accused Britain supporting the Islamic State—before vetoing the proposed resolution to have an international investigation into this latest chemical attack, a fairly strong indication that Moscow knows its client regime in Syria would be found guilty. This is the eighth time Russia has used its veto to shield Assad, though this time it was notable that China abstained, rather than join Russia in a double-veto. Continue reading →
This week, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirmed what everyone already suspected: the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad had lied repeatedly about its adherence to a deal worked out in 2013, under which it would surrender its chemical weapons of mass destruction (CWMD). Continue reading →
Lee Smith’s The Consequences of Syria is part of the Hoover Institution’s “The Great Unravelling” series, which also included The Struggle for Mastery in the Fertile Crescent by the late Fouad Ajami (which I reviewed here.) You can purchase a copy here.
Published in June 2014, Smith narrates Syria’s terrible war to the opening months of 2014, the innumerable excuses made by the Obama administration for letting it run, and the theoretical framework behind the administration’s decision. The book is relatively short and the prose is direct; it takes very complex discussions of ideas and puts them in easily-digestible terms—all while keeping the reader’s eye on the practical implications.
Smith starts with the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the central event in President Obama’s thinking about the Middle East. Continue reading →