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Will the Alleged Chemical Attack in Syria Change Foreign Calculus?

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Throughout the 28-month duration of the Syrian civil war, the images coming from Damascus have been haunting. Though nothing has appeared quite as shocking as the video footage seen this week where thousands of civilians were killed in a horrific and malicious alleged chemical attack on the surrounding regions of Damascus.

Thousands of the victims from the latest assault were young children, seemingly suffering from a lethal exposure to toxic substances. The opposition rebels have accused President Assad of ordering the attack, highlighting the barbaric nature of his government and the desperation they feel under his threatening tactics. However, the Syrian government has described the allegations of chemical weapons' use as "illogical and fabricated". The alleged chemical attack, the say, was orchestrated by the opposition in order to draw more international attention to the conflict, with the hope that further foreign assistance may be likely to follow. The UN has asked the Syrian government to allow a team of UN weapons inspectors already in the country to investigate the latest attack, but the government has given no indication that this will be permitted. One wonders why the government would appear so hesitant to let such an inspection take place, if the Assad regime really had nothing to hide.

Speaking of the alleged chemical attack, Foreign Secretary William Hague said earlier this week that there could be "no excuse" for the Syrian government not to allow UN monitors access to the suburbs of Zamalka, Arbeen and Ein Tarma, though any form of military intervention by the UK has yet to be sanctioned as the government keep to the line that finding a "peaceful and diplomatic solution" is the best way forward. However, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius raised international concern further yesterday by stating that France must react "with force" if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed, though he did rule out the idea of deploying troops inside Syria in the form of military intervention.

Having said last year that the use of a chemical weapon attack in Syria would cross a "red line", all eyes are now on President Obama who has yet to make a decision about what his next move will be. Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, has said the US is "appalled" by "horrifying" reports coming from Syria, but added "as we're weighing these domestic policy decisions, and as we're weighing these foreign policy decisions, the president puts the interest of the United States of America first." The statement suggests that until official confirmation can be found that President Assad was responsible for the alleged chemical attack, the US are still reluctant to increase their involvement with the war in Syria. Given that any further foreign involvement highly depends on the actions of the US, Mr Obama will be under considerable pressure to act if evidence of a chemical attack in Syria is to be found.