More than 80 people were killed by suspected chemical weapons in Khan Sheikhoun. That is about the only thing certain about the attack. Western statements place blame at the feet of Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, an accusation Damascus and Moscow contest.
The Syrian regime may not have had a compelling motive, believes Günther Meyer, the director of the Research Center for the Arab World at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz. “Only armed opposition groups could profit from an attack with chemical weapons,” he told DW. “With their backs against the wall, they have next to no chance of opposing the regime militarily. As President [Donald] Trump’s recent statements show, such actions make it possible for anti-Assad groups to receive further support.”
Former President Barack Obama famously drew a “red line” in 2012. “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,” he said at the time. Meyer views the statement as an “invitation for Assad’s opponents to use chemical weapons and make the Assad regime responsible for it.”
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