People on Syrian streets are dying horrible deaths, asphyxiated as the air around them gives way to clouds of toxic gas released upon them by their government. Last week, blood samples of the victims confirmed that the regime of Bashar al-Assad has used weapons of mass destruction in the form of Sarin nerve gas on at least three occasions, including once on the streets of the rebel stronghold of Homs. Today, horrifying images have flooded the internet of bodies lying inert, otherwise undamaged on the streets of Damascus. Assad has shown a willingness to use any and all means to crush dissent in Syria. These attacks are just the tip of the spear, a small taste of the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the Middle East. Unless he is stopped, there is no reason to assume that these will not continue.
We’ve sat back as Assad has slaughtered his opponents with machine guns and helicopter gunships. We’ve stalled with sanctions and arms embargoes and provided non-lethal aid to the rebels. These were less than half-measures. Had we intervened before, we could have prevented the deaths of 70,000 Syrians at the hands of their ruler and his security forces. We could have prevented Syria from being overrun with foreign jihadi fighters and its middle class from fleeing in one of the region’s worst refugee crises. These things have all happened, but we no longer have a choice.
The United States and United Nations cannot remain on the sidelines of this conflict any longer. President Obama long ago said that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime represented a red line that the international community would not tolerate. The time has come to stand by these words. Continue reading