Human Cost of Failure to Enforce Red Lines in Syria Becomes Clear


The West’s repeated failure to respond to Bashar al-Assad’s slaughter of Syria’s people has given him complete confidence in his ability to continue without penalty. The Henry Jackson Society has long advocated action to deter this barbarism, and the costs of failing to act have become abundantly clear.

The use of chemical weapons specifically against civilians, including children, is intended to signal to the Syrian population that they have no hope of external support regardless of the regime’s behavior. In light of this, the timing of the attack, on the day the European Union met to discuss aid and reconstruction funds, was most likely deliberate.

Henry Jackson Society Research Fellow Kyle Orton said:

“Assad’s chemical attack came just at the moment that much of the international community had accepted his continued rule over Syria as a fait accompli. If there is no serious cost for this atrocity, it will demonstrate that Assad is able to operate with total impunity, a devastating defeat not only for international norms and human rights, but for international security, too. It will hand to the jihadists vindication of their propaganda that the West preferred Assad all along, and only they can defend people from the regime’s depredations.”

Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of The Henry Jackson Society, said:

“For years, President Obama dithered while Assad rampaged throughout Syria, notably when his own red line on chemical weapons use was crossed with no response. President Trump now has an opportunity to show the era of American weakness is over and that international malefactors like Assad will be punished.” 

Notes to Editors:

The Henry Jackson Society is a think tank and policy-shaping force that fights for the principles and alliances which keep societies free – working across borders and party lines to combat extremism, advance democracy and real human rights, and make a stand in an increasingly uncertain world.  Henry Jackson Society research and events provide key analysis and insight to policy-makers and the media.

The Henry Jackson Society can provide interviews with analysts including the Research Fellows, Kyle Orton and Tom Wilson, and the Executive Director, Dr Alan Mendoza

For interview requests, please contact The Henry Jackson Society.

See our research report: Destroying Islamic State, Defeating Assad: A Strategy for Syria

Jim Ormiston
+44 (0)20 7340 4520


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