The images coming out of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria are shocking to say the least of young innocent victims of a chemical attack by Syrian government forces.

Does anyone recall US President, Barak Obama, warning the Syrian Assad regime in 2012 that using chemical weapons would result in his government crossing a “red line” with the civilized world? Or President Obama’s landmark deal with Vladimir Putin of Russia in 2013 to remove and destroy the Syrian stockpile of 1300 tons of chemical weapons, particularly sarin and VX nerve gas? Or the Russians and others announcing that the chemical stockpiles held by the Syrian regime were all removed and destroyed by Russian forces? Remember when, US Secretary of State, John Kerry said, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out?”

The truth is somewhat different and more sobering. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group has put the current death toll in today’s chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, South of the Syrian city of Idlib at 58, including 11 children, and almost 200 injured. This is not new to the Syrian Civil War. There have been repeated claims from both sides in Syria, blaming each other for chemical attacks, the most common being chlorine Gas. In August 2013, the Syrian government used sarin gas on Damascus suburb of Ghouta in the worst Chemical attack of the war to date, and killed 1500 civilians, some 400 being children. An investigation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons found that the Assad regime used chemical weapons on at least two further occasions on the battlefield in 2014 and 2015. Idlib is held by opposition forces, and by all reported accounts, the chemical attack was delivered by air from Syrian or Russian SU-20/22 fighter-bomber jets using air to surface missiles, and is likely sarin nerve gas. Although these reports of delivery may not be completely accurate and are not confirmed. In the case of Ghouta, the chemical sarin was delivered by surface to surface rockets likely fired by a Russian-made GRAD 122MM rocket system and/or a 140 MM M-14 Soviet-era system. Symptoms of those reportedly exposed to the chemicals include respiratory distress, choking, frothing at the mouth, trembling, and pin-point pupils that do not react to light which are consistent with exposure to sarin nerve gas. Sarin was first discovered in 1938 by NAZI-German scientists working on organophosphate compounds related to insecticides. Sarin is an odorless, colorless nerve agent that has the effect of shutting down the victim’s respiratory system in a matter of minutes after exposure. It is rated as 26 times more deadly than exposure to cyanide gas. Sadly, the death toll in Khan Sheikhoun can be expected to climb higher. There are reports that hospitals and other centers treating the victims of this attack were then targeted and attacked by Syrian regime forces, something Russia denies.

The question now, what is President Trump going to do about this mess handed him by Obama’s ham-fisted warning to the Syrians and Russians that use of chemical weapons represented a ‘red line?’ 

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