Chemical weapons have been used on a rebel-held area in Syria, with over 50 people killed, along with around 300 wounded.
The attack took place in the Idlib province, located in northwestern Syria.
The international community condemned the attack, with blame being apportioned on the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons, which could set up a showdown in the UN Security council. The US, France, and Britain are proposing a resolution in the security council condemning the Syrian government, but Russia could seek to block such a resolution, considering their close ties to the Assad regime.
WATCH: News coverage of Syria chemical weapons attack (graphic images)
Trump blames Assad, and Obama
The Trump administration released a statement blasting the “heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime.” The statement also said the attack was a result of the “weakness,” of former President Obama on Syria.
Barack Obama once memorably said the use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad would be a “red line,” which would lead to US efforts to remove Assad from power.
However, Assad used chemical weapons while Obama was President, and Obama backed away from his red line comments. As a result, the Assad regime was emboldened, and that confidence – combined with support from Russia – has turned the tide of the Syrian civil war in Assad’s favour.
The Trump administration has been clear that removing Assad from power is not a priority, and they instead seek to focus on destroying ISIS. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says Assad’s fate will be “up to the Syrian people.”
Even after this latest attack, the US posture towards Syria is unlikely to change. The US has tried removing dictators from power (Iraq, Syria) only to witness near-anarchy in the aftermath, and Trump has shown a strong reluctance to overthrow foreign governments.
Many will now demand a big response in the wake of the attack, but as simple as some people would like to think it is to fix Syria, you can’t simply “arm the rebels,” against Assad. After all, many of those rebels are either part of ISIS, or sympathetic to ISIS. While some rebels have a more reasonable ideology, once weapons are distributed it is difficult to know where they will end up.
Governments will likely condemn Assad, and then move on
In the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack, governments around the world will condemn it, issue some strongly worded statements, make some formal pronouncements, and then move on.
It’s happened before, and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again.