Experts: Syria Chemical Attacks Short of U.S. 'Red Line'
The allegations that a chemical agent was fired last week in Syria are not likely to trigger U.S. military intervention in the nation’s civil war, experts told the Global Security Newswire (GSN).
Obama administration officials have said there is, so far, no evidence that the weapon that fell in Aleppo province on March 19 contained a dangerous chemical material, reported GSN. If it did, reports from the scene suggest the material was a toxic but lower-level threat than the nerve or blister agents held by the Assad regime.
It is also not clear who was behind the attack.
President Barack Obama has repeatedly warned that use or proliferation of Syria’s large chemical arsenal would breach a “red line” that would demand a "strong response," a phrase generally taken to mean military action against the Syrian government.
“It’s probably fair to say that the Obama administration could say we’re not going to trigger this just because someone throws a bottle of bleach at someone; what we’re looking for here is a step change and loss of control [of materials] that are significant, militarized and could spread outside of Syria,” Stephen Johnson, a WMD specialist at Britain's Cranfield University and deputy editor of CBRNE Worl, told GSN.
The United Nations last week initiated an investigation of the incident, reported to have killed 26 and injured more than 100 in the village of Khan al-Assal. The team, led by a Swedish disarmament specialist, is expected to begin its mission in one to two weeks, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
The Syrian government and opposition each claim the other carried out the attack. Both sides called for the U.N. probe.
GSN reported that the U.S. is looking into the possibility that the Assad regime was making it seem that the Opposition used chemical weapons as a pretext for the regime’s use of chemical weapons. Another suspicion "floating around" the incident is that Syrian rebels orchestrated a provocation in hopes it would be taken for a military act by Assad that demanded outside intervention.
Even reports of other alleged chemical strikes that have arisen in recent days have been “almost unverifiable” and provided little detail, Johnson said.