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That chemical attack in Syria

Nightmarish accounts and horrific images coming out of Syria seized the world’s attention last week following the chemical attack at the Syrian town of Khan…

Nightmarish accounts and horrific images coming out of Syria seized the world’s attention last week following the chemical attack at the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun which left at least 70 dead including women and children. The use of chemical weapons is illegal and immoral, yet has occurred in Syria with impunity for the past three years. 

Sadly, the world has talked about how atrocious they are, passed resolutions about their barbarism and even spoken of “red lines,” while little actually ever happened to stop them. 

Responding to the incident, United States President Donald Trump last Thursday ordered cruise missile attacks on the Syrian airbase where the chemical airstrike was supposedly launched. Trump said, “Today’s chemical attack in Syria against innocent people, including women and children, is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world. The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack.”

But beyond condemning the attack and ordering cruise missile strikes, it’s still unclear what option America is prepared to pursue in this present scenario. The United States and its allies had blamed the Syrian regime headed by Bashar al-Assad, who has been waging, for six years, an excruciating civil war against U.S.-backed rebels in the northern part of the country.  On the other hand, Syria had rejected the accusations and Russia, Assad’s staunchest ally, warned against apportioning blame until an investigation has been carried out. The Syrian military said it was not responsible for Tuesday’s carnage and maintained it didn’t use chemical weapons. Instead, it blamed opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. “I stress, once again, that the Syrian Arab Army did not and will not use such weapons even against the terrorists who are targeting our people,” Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said. He held that the Syrian army bombed a warehouse belonging to al-Qaida’s branch in Syria that contained chemical weapons. He did not say whether the government knew in advance that the warehouse contained chemical weapons. Moallem alleged al-Qaida and ISIS had been bringing chemical weapons from neighbouring Iraq.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhoun. Moscow has provided military support for the Syrian government since September 2015, turning the balance of power in Assad’s favour. It has used its veto power at the UN Security Council on several occasions since the civil war began six years ago to prevent sanctions against Damascus.

Meanwhile, as key Security Council members, including the U.S. and Russia, meet behind closed doors at U.N. headquarters to try to reach agreement on a resolution on the matter, we hereby denounce the attack and join in the calls for an impartial and independent investigation. The Western powers are in a hurry to blame the Assad regime for the attack but as things stand, it is the Western-backed rebels and IS that have a greater motive to resort to these weapons of desperation, hence the need for an independent investigation.

Though we warn against apportioning blame for the attack until an investigation has been carried out, we however hold that the culprits must be prosecuted over use of chemical weapons. We believe last Tuesday’s incident was one chemical attack too many. Until or unless there is a credible deterrent, it will keep happening. We call upon the super powers involved in this conflict to exercise their influence and guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again. It is also clear that this terrible conflict demands a genuine ceasefire and the supporters of the armed combatants in the region need to ensure compliance. 

We urge for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian civil war, a war, in its seventh year, so blood-soaked it has run out of adjectives to describe its hell. 

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