Are the United States and Russia going to war over the Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons on April 7 in Douma? Is this the beginning of a third world war? Despite the hyperbole and war of words, it is not. Rather, it is the unfinished business of the Cold War that left many things out of place.
There is strong evidence that Bashar Assad's regime used chemical weapons again on April 7. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that about 500 people in Douma were treated for "signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals." Over 70 people are believed to have died as a result of the attack. Those who died showed symptoms "consistent with exposure to highly toxic chemicals."
This is not the first time the regime has used chemical weapons on its people. When it did so back in 2013, the U.S. President Barack Obama set a red line but did nothing to either hold the regime accountable or take measures to ensure that such barbaric acts are not repeated. It was this failure by Obama that gave Russia and Iran the opportunity to enter the mayhem in Syria in full force. This is also what gave the Assad regime a new lifeline when it was about to crumble. A serious and strategic response then was very likely to change the course of the Syrian war and prevent future chemical attacks.
But the use of chemical weapons, an abominable war crime in and of itself, is just one part of the Syrian tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people have died and millions became refugees and internally displaced people as a result of the most brutal war of the 21st century. As President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has rightly said, far more people have died as a result of the use of conventional weapons and the international community has failed to respond to this drama, leaving the people of Syria to the barbarism of the Assad regime on the one hand, and Daesh and other terrorist groups on the other. The Syrian people did not and do not have to choose between the two monsters in the Syrian war. With few exceptions like Turkey, most of the world has turned its back on the Syrian people.The chemical attack on April 7 must be taken seriously and the regime must be held accountable for its war crimes. Possible measures include a military response in the form of destroying the regime's chemical and other lethal capabilities. Turkey supported a U.N. Security Council resolution to investigate the incident. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) is sending a delegation to Douma to verify the use of chemical weapons. It must be given full access to do its job.