New reports alledge that the Assad regime has killed hundreds in an early-morning chemical attack targeting a Damascus suburb, a charge the regime denies. The Syrian opposition claims the attack has killed 1,300 people. The BBC collects photojournalism, and witnesses describe the alleged attack.
France’s foreign minister calls for “a reaction of force” if the regime is shown to be responsible for the attack, and Turkey claims that the chemical weapons use crosses “all red lines.”
Lord Malloch-Brown, a former deputy secretary-general of the UN, urges caution and that chemical weapons use must be confirmed before any military action is taken.
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Wednesday, where US-led efforts to strengthen inspections floundered in the face of Russian and Chinese opposition.
Will this apparent attack spur greater calls for intervention in Syria? Jon Western writes that, if confirmed, this is a turning point in the conflict and that the attack’s “raw and devastating images will alter the political landscape in Washington, throughout Europe, and throughout the region.” Others disagree.
Michael Hirsh argues that Washington’s fears of an Islamist-dominated post-Assad Syria are simply too great to meaningfully support the rebels.
Juan Cole concludes that if the Assad regime really did conduct the attack, it’s calling the Obama administration’s bluff: “Lesson to Mr. Obama: don’t bluff and don’t set red lines unless you’re really committted to reacting if they are crossed.”
Analyst Brown Moses recently collected his prior chemical weapons-related posts, which are certainly worth reading. It’s also worth revisiting an April post in which Jeffrey Lewis argues that “if Assad is using chemical weapons to hold on to power, we have an interest in ensuring that his government falls and that the responsible regime figures take their turn at the Hague.”
Andrew J. Tabler looks at some hard truths about post-war Syria — with the rebels losing military momentum and splintering along ideological lines, as of now Assad is winning the war.
Hala Gorani flags a moving UNHCR photo of Syrian refugees fleeing into Iraq.