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Syria on chemical hair trigger
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“Has Syria overstepped the red line? Have chemical weapons been used against rebels? And does this require an armed intervention by the US?” asks Damien in Paris, France.

Response from Fabrice Balanche, Lecturer at the University of Lyon 2 and Director of the Groupe de Recherches et d’Etudes sur la Méditerranée et le Moyen-Orient at the Maison de l’Orient:

“It did indeed look like the Syrian regime had used gas against a rebel stronghold in Homs in December 2012. But there is still no evidence of this.

“The US and Great Britain say they have proof chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government, but we remember they had already used that as an excuse to intervene in Iraq in 2003. So today, it is difficult to believe them, especially seeing as everyone apologised after the Iraq intervention.

“News emerged that it was the rebels, rather, who had used these chemical weapons against the Syrian regime’s forces.

“On Sunday, May 5, Carla del Ponte, who is a member of the independent UN commission on violence committed in Syria, claimed she had witness accounts of the use of chemical weapons not by the government but by the rebels, who apparently used them against the Syrian army, especially near Aleppo in March 2013. But as there is no official evidence so far, you have to be very careful with such information.

“For the United States to intervene in Syria… they can do it if they get UN backing, but this would require Russia and China to remove their veto. They could also intervene unilaterally, the way they did in Iraq in 2003.

“But of course, that would trigger a serious international crisis.

“But do the United States really want to intervene in Syria? For Barack Obama, the Middle East is not a priority at all – Asia is his priority. However, there are two priorities in the region: one is the defence of Gulf oil reserves and the other is the security of Israel. And if Israel’s security is threatened by what’s going on in Syria, well then the United States might intervene. How? With air raids rather than ground troops. Would that be enough to topple the Syrian regime? That’s the question.

“What we saw with the Israeli raids on the Damascus region on Sunday, May 5, is that it could be part of a US-Israeli offensive against the Syrian regime.”

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