France's Foreign Minister suggested today that the international community must respond "with force" if it's proven that hundreds of deaths in Syria on Wednesday were caused by chemical weapons. In a television interview on Thursday, Laurent Fabius did not specify what action might be taken or who should do it. (France, NATO, the U.S. or some combination?) He also specifically ruled out sending ground forces into Syria. However, his statement reflects a growing concern that Bashar al-Assad's regime may have finally gone too far for the rest of the international community to ignore the problem any longer.
His statement came after an emergency Security Council meeting at the United Nations resulted in predictably toothless response. The group did not even officially order a full investigation into the attack and allegations of chemical weapon use, but merely asked for "clarity" and expressed "strong concern." No resolutions or new sanctions were proposed. Any formal action taken by the Security Council is likely to be blocked by Russia, which remains Assad's most steadfast ally.
The lack of action also drew outrage from Turkey, which shares a border with Syria and has been vocally opposed to Assad from the beginning. The tepid response from the U.N. is even more disappointing given that one of their chemical weapons investigation teams is already in Syria, and staying at a hotel just minutes from the attack site, but has not been permitted to investigate. There are even reports that Assad's forces have been bombing the same area with conventional weapons, perhaps to cover evidence.
Israeli intelligence has also declared that the evidence of a chemical attack is credible, and that the Assad government is responsible. Rebel opposition groups says as many as 1,300 people were killed in the attack.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.