The World Must Act to Hold Assad Accountable for his Continued Chemical Weapons Use

Even though then-Secretary of State John Kerry said in July 2014 we had “struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out” of Syria, there are media reports that Syria government forces today have used chemicals as a weapon in the vicinity of Khan Sheikhoun, in the province of Idlib. It comes one month after Russia and China vetoed a United Nations Security Council Resolution holding the Assad regime accountable for its previous use of chemical weapons.

On February 28, the United Nations Security Council considered a Resolution naming people and companies involved in Assad’s use of chemical weapons and placing international sanctions on them. Russia and China vetoed it, eviscerating whatever shred of credibility remained to the norm against the use of chemical weapons post Obama abandoning his redline against such use.

Russia and China have made clear they will countenance and protect Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. It is thus understandable why Assad would take their use to another grotesque level today.

In September 2016, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power described how the Syrian government engaged in “double-tap strikes,” where Assad forces would bomb an area, wait for first responders to come to provide relief, and then directly target the first responders as they tended to victims in burning and collapsing buildings.

Media reports today describe how Syrian forces used chemicals to attack an area, and then when the victims were taken to medical points to receive treatment, those medical areas/facilities were targeted for attack.

The United States already has sanctions on every entity proposed to be sanctioned in the vetoed Security Council Resolution. The United States should work with like-minded countries to have them sanction those entities as well, in an attempt to resuscitate the norm against the use of chemical weapons.

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