On August 21, 2013, it was reported that chemical weapon attacks took place in Ghouta, a suburb northeast of Damascus, Syria. While United Nations investigators have had limited access to the area, death toll estimates range from 322 to 1,729, with U.S. intelligence reporting 1,429. Doctors without Borders reported about 3,600 patients at local hospitals had “neurotoxic symptoms” from the attack.
Responses from political leaders include:
- U.S. President Barack Obama – he is considering a “limited, narrow act... we're not considering any open ended commitment. We're not considering any boots on the ground approach",
- French President François Hollande -”France is ready”,
- British Prime Minister David Cameron - "I understand the deep skepticism that my colleagues in parliament and many members of the public have about British involvement in Syria. I hope this doesn't become the moment where we turn our back on the world's problems",
- a representative for German Chancellor Angela Merkel - "there has been no request to us for a military commitment, and a German military commitment has never been considered by the government” and
- Russian President Vladimir Putin - “"we have to remember what has happened in the last decades, how many times the United States has been the initiator of armed conflict in different regions of the world … did this resolve even one problem?"
While military intervention into Syria is controversial, questions to consider include:
- how will a U.S. military strike change the Syrian President’s tactics?
- could violence expand into other countries?
- how would a destabilized Syria change Middle East dynamics?