The United States fulfilled its moral responsibility both to the safety of its own people and to the people of Syria to respond to the Assad regimes use of chemical weapons, through a strategic military strike. Radar photography shows that on Tuesday Bashar al-Assad launched a chemical weapons attack near Idib on the eastern outskirts of Khan Sheikhun, allegedly targeting an ammunition warehouse supplying military equipment to ISIS and Al Qaeda.
The attack offered a strategic advantage to the Assad regime, military gains are slow and the site of the attack borders a motorway connecting government held cities with rebel strong holds in the north and may also have been retaliation for the Hama offensive just less than a year, prior.
So far the evidence that Assad carried out the attack is absolutely overwhelming, simply because he is the only who could have carried out this attack. The Turkish Health Ministry where many of the causalities were treated claim that the victims wounds were consistent with a nerve agent such as sarin gas. Later corroborated by the World Health Organisation. This isn't your standard, run-of-the-mill, mustard gas, sarin is expense to purify and takes two separate chemicals to store in an oxygen deprived facility. It's unlikely to be kept in a warehouse and even then, one of the components, rubbing alcohol in extremely flammable. We can't accept in an off-handed way claims that 'Oh, well ISIS could have done that'. The only non-state actor ever recorded using sarin gas was during the Tokyo subway sarin attack in 1995.
The alleged warehouse itself was later photographed and neither stored weapons nor was it even hit in the bombing. It was used to store agricultural products which were not contaminated and neighboring buildings were not hit in the attack, either. Instead the point of impact resulted in a crater in the road, not big enough to destroy a building and it's where the contamination area was found. This version of events is also corroborated by eye witness accounts from civilians, the free Idlib Army, the Syrian defense force
The Russian narrative clearly doesn't add up either, not only does the Russian timing contradict eye witness accounts of the attack but the alleged, actual weapons storing facility has so far not been identified or found. We also know that an air raid on a warehouse would have destroyed most the toxin almost instantly and that which remained would not spread it, as it did. Lets also not forget that Assad has done this before in 2013 during the devastating Ghouta attack and has since been called out by the UN for continued use of chemical weapons in 2014-15. This is after the Russians told us that Syria disposed of all of their chemical weapons.
The president's measured response in targeting the Shayrat airbase in which ten per cent of the Syrian air force were destroyed as were two run ways, a weapons dump and storage sites was both morally and (despite what some are claiming), legally justifiable. And with its development the case for continued targeted air strikes in Syria is becoming harder to ignore. Initially I didn't want the United Kingdom to back the United States in 2013 by intervening in Syria. I was wrong and I recognize that now.
The rise of ISIS wasn't just allowed to happen under his watch, he actively supported it by mixing civic anti-Assad protesters in with Al Qaeda and maintaining a penetrated influence over jihadist groups, ever since propagating the Iraqi insurgence of fighters in 2003. So far his strategy has worked. In 2013 the U.S. called off anti-Assad air strikes when it didn't get international support and u-turned only to intervene in 2015 after the Yazidi massacre and the tragic murder of James Foley, this time against ISIS forces. The pentagon has been entirely focused on combating extremism in the region and its made Assad comfortable giving him international support from Russia, Iran and Iraqi militia.
I'm not calling for an Iraq-style ground invasion but the case for targeted air strikes cooperated with well-trained and well-equipped ground troops in Syria, like the Free Syrian Army, the YPG/PYD, Peshmerga, the Iraqi army, Kurdish and Yazidi forces is one I find compelling. The creation and maintenance of safe zones in northern Syria is also necessary, while we strengthen the Turkish border. But one thing I will never accept is complacency, I've heard the argument that we should sell out our principles and abandon our commitment to international law to pander friendship with the Russians. Sorry but some things are not for sale.