Christopher J. Griffin and Evan Moore of the Foreign Policy Initiative writes:

According to news reports, the regime of Bashar al-Assad has killed as many as 1,300 Syrians in a chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb. If Assad ordered the attack, it would present a brazen challenge to President Obama’s repeated warnings that chemical weapons use is a “red line” for the United States. Sadly, the Obama administration’s feckless handling of the conflict in Syria has made such a challenge more likely.

As Joseph Holliday from the Institute for the Study of War has argued, the Assad regime has pursued a deliberate strategy of gradual escalation throughout its war against the Syrian people, using ever more deadly tactics over the past two years. Initially, this escalation included the gradual introduction of artillery, aerial bombardment, and SCUD missiles through 2011 and 2012, culminating in the use of chemical weapons this year.

Gradual escalation has served two purposes for Assad. First, it has allowed his regime to increase the level of violence used against the Syrian people without incurring any international response. Second, it has allowed Assad to send a clear and consistent message to the Syrian people—“no matter what I do to you,” his attacks say, “the world will not respond.”

This messaging is essential to Assad’s campaign because it undermines the moderate Free Syrian Army’s best hope for survival—that the United States will support their struggle for freedom.

Throughout, the Obama administration has played into Assad’s trap. In April 2013, just a month after the President warned that Assad would be held accountable for using chemical weapons, the United States joined other world governments in assessing that “the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria.” The main consequence of this finding was a request for a United Nations investigation.

Whole thing here.

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