Why Syrian Government Use Of Chemical Weapons Matters To US National Security

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about Syria next to Vice President Joe Biden (L) at the Rose Garden of the White House August 31, 2013, in Washington. Obama said on Saturday he had decided the United States should strike Syrian government targets in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack, but said he would seek a congressional vote for any military action.

On Saturday President Obama said that a large-scale chemical weapons attack “presents a serious danger to our national security.”

This is a key notion in the debate about whether the U.S. should again choose to meddle in the Middle East.

The president gave three reasons:

1) “It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

Earlier this week Ian Bremmer told Business Insider the U.S. “has to respond given international norms against the use of chemical weapons” because the “costs of not responding at this point are too high.”

The international norm argument underlies Obama’s “question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?”

2) “It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.”

The U.S. stated, in a law signed by Obama in July 2012, that the strategic environment in the Middle East poses “great challenges to the national security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly our most important ally in the region.”

And several of America’s other allies in the region are calling for U.S. intervention aimed at toppling Assad so that the devastating 29-month conflict ends.

“Obama never needed to go searching for a coalition of the willing for Syria; one … has been knocking, in fact, at the door of the Oval Office for quite some time,” Interpreter Magazine Editor-in-Chief Michael D. Weiss wrote in Foreign Policy. “Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, all see Syria as a grave short-term threat to their national security.”

3) “It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.”

This reason involves the fear that Assad would transfer
chemical weapons to Hezbollah, the Lebanese-based terrorist group and Iranian proxy that has more than 60,000 rockets pointed at Israel.

Furthermore, Michael Gordon of The New York Times reported that effective strikes “may also send a signal to Iran that the White House is prepared to back up its words, no small consideration for an administration that has proclaimed that the use of military force remains an option if the leadership in Iran insists on fielding a nuclear weapon.”

In Obama’s words: “If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?”

So, unlike the invasion of Iraq, it appears that the Assad’s regime’s perceived large-scale use of chemical weapons — and a response to such an action — actually involves legitimate national security interests.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.