Syria has been in our headlines for over two years now, with over 100,000 people killed since the conflict began. We have seen countless reports about the rebel fight against the Assad regime and there have been a number of debates during this time, asking whether the West should get involved in the conflict. In the last week however, concern about Syria and the Assad regime has intensified, as it emerged that there was a chemical attack in a rebel-held area of Damascus on the 21st August.
The location of the attack supports the theory that it was the government forces who launched it, although the regime and the rebels have both blamed each other for what happened. Around 355 people are thought to have died from the attack and a UN investigation is now examining which kinds of weapons were used. Although UN workers were fired at by snipers on Monday, they have now continued their enquiries and are apparently visiting hospitals in Damascus in order to interview eyewitnesses and medical staff. It is also thought that they are taking samples from survivors.
The US stated that there is ‘undeniable’ proof of the attack and that they are considering a strike against Syria as a result of this, following talks with their allies. The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has added that there is further information that will be made public in the coming days, while Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, argued that the West is yet to produce any clear evidence that Assad forces used chemical weapons.
But should the UK, the USA and their allies rush into a strike on Syria? UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged world leaders to allow time for the investigation to be completed before making any major decisions. Russia and China, at present, have warned against a strike on Syria, stating that it could be catastrophic for the region. As part of the UN community, the two countries should be presented with evidence supporting a strike on the country, although it could go ahead whether they both abstained from involvement or not. This was the case when we launched an attack in Libya in 2011 – Russia and China abstained, although they did not veto the move. Both David Cameron and William Hague have suggested that if this was to happen again, an attack on Syria could still go ahead.
Public opinion in the UK regarding intervention in Syria is mixed. Many are against entering another conflict in the Middle East and are questioning whether it is politically and economically a wise decision. We are still in the depths of a global economic crisis and British people want to know whether a strike on Syria will make our economy weaker. There are also fears about Syrian links to terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and whether weapons used in the country could fall into the wrong hands. Does attacking this region of the world make us a target?
Despite this, people from the UK and across Western nations are eager for intervention in Syria. Hundreds of people are dying each week and the number of Syrian refugees is thought to be around 1.7 million. Many feel uncomfortable about watching such horrors unfold in the war-torn country and so want our leaders to intervene in order to promote peace and freedom in Syria. It appears that the ‘red line’ Barack Obama talked of has been crossed and finally, the world is beginning to talk.