An apparent chemical attack on civilians in Douma, Syria recently prompted the United States, United Kingdom and France to launch retaliatory airstrikes against the Assad regime. Much remains unclear at this point about the attack except that hundreds of Douma residents suffered from symptoms consistent with a chemical attack. They included difficulty breathing, burning eyes and foaming from the mouth. About 70 people died from that attack.
Yet, this is not the first time chemical weapons were reportedly used in the seven-year old Syria civil war and there is evidence indicating that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on civilians in the past. Neither was the use of chemical weapons confined to the Syrian conflict. The self-styled Islamic State (IS) was known to have used chemical weapons and chemical attacks on civilians were believed to have occurred in Malaysia and the UK more recently. As chemical attacks on civilians become more regular, there is a pressing need to stop the production and use of chemical weapons, not least because of their potential to inflict mass casualty. But doing so is easier said than done for several reasons.
… Tan Teck Boon is Research Fellow and Coordinator of the Science and Technology Studies Programme (STSP), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Last updated on 03/05/2018