May 1 2013
photo by MC James Norman/U.S. Navy
This commentary appeared in U.S. News & World Report on May 1, 2013.
Both Israel and the United States now believe that chemical weapons have been used in Syria's civil war, most likely by Syrian government forces. If the rebels have even some of the chemical weapons, that could be worse, for it will mean that they are no longer under government control. They could be used in Syria today and elsewhere tomorrow.
So now what? The pressure for doing something to remove the threat posed by chemical weapons stockpiles is mounting, but there are no good options. The U.S. could selectively provide additional arms and support for President Assad's foes, carefully avoiding those with al-Qaida affiliations. It could demand further investigation by international authorities, which could take months to approve and mobilize. Or it could launch a risky military intervention, with or without the help of allies, in the midst of a civil war.
Perhaps the worst thing the United States could do, though, is nothing.