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Middle East

Opinion: No alternative to military action

By allegedly using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians, Assad has crossed Obama's "red line." As a result, the West must take military action, says DW's Loay Mudhoon.

There is no longer any doubt that chemical weapons, which are subject to a worldwide ban, have been deployed in the Syrian civil war. The terrible photographs and videos of dead women and children, as well as of injured civilians displaying neurotoxic symptoms, constitute clear evidence that nerve gas was used.

Furthermore, reports by the respected aid organization Doctors Without Borders, which has worked in Syria for years and is in close contact with hospitals there, provide confirmation of the barbarous mass murder.

Loay Mudhoon, Programmdirektion DW-RADIO/DW-WORLD / Islamexperte der deutschen Welle. Foto: Per Hendriksen / DW

DW's Loay Mudhoon

The 'red line' has been crossed

The deployment of these internationally banned weapons of mass destruction against a civilian population unequivocally crosses the "red line" as defined by US President Barack Obama. As a reminder: In August last year, Obama made a clear statement before the entire world that he would not tolerate the use of chemical or biological weapons in the Syrian civil war. Now that hundreds have died and thousands have been wounded, the most powerful man in the world will be held to his word.

For this reason, it is highly likely that within the next few days a US-led coalition will have to take action against military facilities belonging to the Assad regime. The American president has no choice: not for moral reasons alone, but rather because the West cannot allow a precedent for the use of chemical weapons in this powder keg of a region if it wants to prevent future attacks with weapons of mass destruction.

This is also urgently necessary, in view of the unscrupulousness of the Assad regime, and especially given that it possesses the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the Middle East.

Conflict remains unchanged

Even if a US military strike against the regime in Damascus seems to be just a matter of time, many questions do remain - in particular, questions as to the concrete political aims of this limited intervention.

It is already apparent that the anticipated two-day bombardment of Syrian military facilities will constitute no more than a deterrent, punitive action. It will not end the bloodshed, and it is hardly likely to alter the conduct of the warring parties in this highly complex conflict. Yet there is a hope that, if Assad can be weakened, he might show greater willingness to negotiate.

This is why international diplomacy must do everything it possibly can to bring all the warring parties to the negotiation table, including, of course, Assad's friends and supporters, China, Russia and Iran.

Paradoxically, the imminent military action by the US offers a new and unexpected opportunity for a multinational approach to this conflict. Neither Russia nor China are interested in watering down the international ban on chemical weapons. And when we consider that, even if the Assad regime were to fall, the Syrian civil war would still not be over, it's clear that joint action by the whole international community is the only feasible way of ending the Syrian tragedy.

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