Chemical attacks leave the West divided on Syria

September 12th, 2013

On Thursday, Sept. 6, a summit to discuss economic issues between 20 countries was convened in St. Petersburg, Russia. However, the proceedings quickly become overshadowed by the increasingly violent civil war in Syria.

President Obama established a Red Line early on in the Syrian conflict, stating that the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government would justify U.S. intervention. After the U.S. gathered evidence linking the use of poisonous gasses against 1,429 Syrian citizens in the suburbs of Damascus to president Bashar al-Assad’s administration, it called for military action from the United Nations.

Despite the case presented by Secretary of State John Kerry at the G-20 summit, the international community is at a standstill because Russia and China will not support a U.S. attack on Syria. Instead, diplomats from these countries hope to resolve the issue with a political solution, arguing that American military action would hurt the global economy and cause a destructive downward spiral of reciprocity.

Without the support of these countries, Obama has little hope of achieving a U.N. sanction for action against Syria. The U.K., usually a close ally of the U.S. and its military, also cannot endorse military action in Syria because its parliament voted against providing support to U.S. troops. Though Prime Minister David Cameron said that his country could supply further physical evidence of chemical attacks, without the support of parliament, he cannot mobilize against Bashar’s regime.

Similarly, many of the countries at the G-20 summit called for a strong international response to the Syrian conflict, but cannot fully endorse U.S. military action against Syria until the U.N. chemical investigators have filed their report, which, according to BBC World News, will not be published until mid-September.

After the summit, only France and America were willing to move forward with military action, making this step a minority opinion.  According to NBC World News, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon said that any military actions taken by the U.S. would be considered “aggressive” without unanimous international approval.

On Tuesday. Sept. 10, the Russian government announced that they would be willing to negotiate with Syria to turn their chemical weapons over to them. This proposal has also affected the U.S. approach towards the issue.

In a speech he made to the nation the same day, Obama stated that he will postpone the Congressional vote on Syria in order to work with Russia on the matter. In the same speech, he argued that a strike against Syria was in the best interest of the U.S. and its allies, according to CNN.

Information from NBC News, CNN and BBC World News was used in this article.