Syria Chemical Attack: The World Reacts

Days after a chemical attack on Syrian civilians on August 21, 2013, Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid Muallem said, “There is no country in the world who [sic] use an ultimate destruction weapon against its own people.” He challenged anyone to prove the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, had any role in the attacks. Both the Syrian government and Syrian rebels claim no responsibility in the attack and each pointed its finger at the other.

In his August 30 press conference updating the nation on the current crisis in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry said, “We know that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East.” Kerry also reported that the U.S. has confirmed many facts proving the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government on their own people resulting in the death of over 1,400 civilian men, women, and children.

The international community has struggled in the ensuing days since the attack. The United Kingdom back out of a coalition with the U.S. and France considering a military strike in Syria. This came as a political blow to U.K. Prime Minister, David Cameron who lost the vote to British lawmakers; it was also a blow to U.S. and U.K. relations—two countries who throughout recent history have taken a united stance during international crisis. Across the other side of the table, days earlier, Russia and China, Syrian allies, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the coalition attacked Syria.

Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama's National Security Council, said “President Obama's decision-making will be guided by what is in the best interests of the United States.” Currently, the U.S. has not said what action it will take since Syria violated what Vice President Joe Biden called the “essential international norm” against chemical weapon use.  President Obama said his administration is considering a range of options but sending ground troops in is not one of them. “In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, or that would involve a long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria but others around the world understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapon ban and norm.”  

In a surprise announcement that followed, Obama told Americans that he will seek the approval of Congress before proceeding with military strike in Syria. “While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective,” he said. With U.S. military assets in the region in position and ready to strike, Obama said he is prepared to give the order, but is waiting for the Senate and House of Representative to return from recess on September 9 and vote on this contentious issue.

The Syrian Arab News Agency reports that Syrian President al-Assad is poised to defend his country against foreign aggression. "Syria, with its steadfast people and brave army, will continue eliminating terrorism which is utilized by Israel and the western countries to serve their interests in fragmenting the region," al-Assad said. The al-Assad family has governed Syria for 40 years. In power since 2000, al-Assad succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad who had served as president since 1971.

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