PARIS: Barack Obama famously had one, while Donald Trump and Emma­nuel Macron clearly set out their own. But their “red lines” over the use of chemical weapons in the Syria conflict are now being tested.

France said on Wednes­day that “all indications” suggested the Syrian government was using chlorine weapons against rebel forces.

Thus far, Damascus has gone unpunished militarily for its latest suspected chemical weapons attacks.

Analysts say the Assad government may be seeing how far it can go.

“The attacks are part of an ongoing effort to test whether President Trump will enforce the red line on chemical weapons he put in place last year,” said David Adesnik, research director of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies.

Former US president Barack Obama was the first to set out his red line in 2012, when he warned President Bashar al Assad that the use, or even the movement, of chemical weapons would trigger US military reprisals.

But after a sarin attack the following year, which killed nearly 1,500 civilians in the Damascus suburbs according to US intelligence, Obama opted out of military reprisals and instead secured an agreement along with Russia to dismantle the Syrian chemical arsenal.

And after being elected French president, Emman­uel Macron drew a “very clear red line” on the issue, promising “retaliation and an immediate response from France” if chemical weapons were used.

Paris and Washington agreed they were ready to respond in a coordinated manner to any new chemical attack by the Syrian government.

“Macron’s red line has been crossed to the letter,” said Bruno Tertrais, deputy director of the Foundation for Strategic Research in Paris.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2018

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