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Understanding the U.S. led airstrikes in Syria

Lucas Gonzalez, News Editor

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On Friday, Apr. 13 the United States, along with Britain and France, launched airstrikes against Syria. The strikes came in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the city of Douma, ordered by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people.

The strikes did not attack civilian areas – instead, they targeted suspected chemical weapons facilities. Chlorine and sarin are expected to have been used in the Douma attack.

The use of chemical weapons has been established as a violation of international law, according to Wright State Professor of Political Science Vaughn Shannon, who specializes in Middle East Politics, International Security and Foreign Policy Analysis.

The air strikes against Syria were condemned by the governments of Syria and its ally, Russia. Following the strikes, the United Nations (UN) Security Council held an emergency session, during which Russia was unable to garner the votes necessary for a resolution condemning the strikes as an act of aggression and a violation of international law and the UN Charter, according to a report from CNN.

According to Shannon, Article 51 of the UN Charter has established that the use of force against another country must be for self-defense purposes.  Likewise, Article 7 says that the use of force must be authorized by the UN Security Council.

The chemical weapons attack in Syria posed no immediate threat to the U.S., and the air strikes that came in response were not approved by the Security Council.

There is an established commitment among members of the UN called the “responsibility to protect,” according to Shannon. It says that, “the outside world has a duty to intervene to protect civilians in countries where their governments are unwilling or unable to do so.”

“The question,” according to Shannon, “is who gets to do that, and under what authority.”

The problem, according to Shannon, would have been if the U.S. had either “deliberately or accidentally” killed Russians on Syrian soil. There is believed to have been a line of communication between the U.S. and Russia to avoid that outcome. “I imagine that U.S.-Russia relations will survive this, and that Assad will survive this,” said Shannon.

Likewise, President Trump has given no indication that that the U.S. intends to alter the outcome of the Syrian civil war, according to Shannon. “I believe Russia knows that the U.S. is not committing to altering the outcome,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has since urged the U.S., U.K., and France to “avoid any acts that could escalate matters and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people,” according to a CNN report.

United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has stuck firmly to the stance that the U.S., U.K., and France acted to “deter the future use of chemical weapons by holding the Syrian regime responsible for its atrocities against humanity,” according to CNN.

In the meantime, Haley has said that the U.S. remains “locked and loaded,” should the Assad regime use chemical weapons again.

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Wright State University
Understanding the U.S. led airstrikes in Syria