by Brendan James
Andrew J. Tabler advises the White House move to preempt further chemical violence:
Washington should make clear to Russia and Syria that, absent convincing evidence of the regime exercising control over all C.W. [chemical weapons] on its territory, episodes such yesterday’s will require the United States and its allies to take military action to prevent future use. Given the practical difficulties of locating and seizing C.W. stocks and the danger to nearby civilians from attacks on C.W. storage sites, such a warning would presumably mean airstrikes on regime units responsible for using chemical agents and, perhaps, on C.W.-related facilities.
A no-fly zone isn’t going to target the missiles and artillery that the regime would use to launch more chemical weapons. As such, a no-fly zone might be imposed over southern Syria and civilians would still come under attack anyway. Establishing a no-fly zone creates the illusion of protection without offering the real thing. Foreign attacks on the Syrian military would give Assad another incentive to use more chemical weapons, and they certainly wouldn’t be able to prevent future use of those weapons.
U.S. military action wouldn’t reduce the likelihood of more chemical weapons being used against civilian targets, and to the extent that it succeeded in weakening regime forces it would increase the chances that those weapons are captured by jihadists.