US resets red line for intervention

WASHINGTON – With the latest US missile strikes, President Donald Trump appears to have reset America’s red line for military intervention in Syria over the use of chemical weapons.

What’s unclear is where that red line now stands.

The United States said its strikes were a response to President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons attack on April 7 that administration officials say employed chlorine and perhaps even sarin, a more deadly nerve agent.

“A large body of information indicates that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on Saturday.

Sarin had previously appeared to be the threshold for intervention.

A sarin attack triggered Mr Trump’s decision last year to strike a Syrian air base.

A sarin attack in 2013 was also what nearly brought then-President Barack Obama to strike Syria.

Chlorine, in contrast, has been used more widely in Syria’s conflict without past US reprisals, and the chemical itself is far easier to find and weaponise, experts say. That makes degrading it through military strikes far more difficult.

“Every city in the Middle East that has a water purification system probably has some chlorine.

It is a common industrial chemical,” said Daryl Kimball at the Washington-based Arms Control Association, who favours broad action to deter use of chemical weapons, including chlorine.

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