Updated Apr 13, 2018

Civilian deaths in Syria require more than a military response

British Ambassador to the UN Karen Pierce talks with U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley at a Security Council heaeing on April 10, 2018, about last week's chemical weapons attack in Douma, Syria. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

While last week’s horrific chemical weapons attack in Douma has seized the world’s attention, potentially pushing President Trump toward military action, Bashar al-Assad's regime has used chemical weapons more than 20 times since last year’s missile strike, and as many as eight times just since the beginning of 2018. So the question is: What comes after strikes?

The big picture: For Assad, the benefits of using these weapons have outweighed the costs. The U.S. and the international community must change that calculus through a range of economic, diplomatic and legal efforts, in addition to any military response. Otherwise, attacks will resume once the spotlight is gone.

Since the Khan Shaykhun attack last year, options to address these crimes have only gotten worse: Russia has obstructed any UN attempts to hold Assad accountable and deliberately ignored its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

But the U.S. and like-minded nations can still leverage a more robust response, nested within a larger strategy for pressing Assad (and his supporters) to end deliberate civilian targeting and negotiate a settlement to the war. Specific elements of the strategy might include:

  • Punitive strikes against Syrian aircraft to prevent future atrocities, ideally in combination with allies across Europe and the Middle East
  • Targeting remaining sites of Syrian chemical weapons research, development and production
  • Sanctioning Iran, Russia and North Korea for their support of Assad’s weapons programs
  • Multilateral negotiations on Syria’s future that hold Assad accountable for any future civilian targeting
  • Using the International Partnership Against Impunity for the Use of Chemical Weapons to initiate noncompliance proceedings and refer Syria to the Security Council

The bottom line: The U.S. and its partners should broaden the menu of response options to ensure that every civilian attack comes at a steep cost to the Assad regime. After seven years, with 500,000 dead and millions displaced, Syrian civilians deserve no less.

Rebecca Hersman is director of the Project on Nuclear Issues and senior adviser in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Go deeper: Read an extended take from Rebecca Hersman and Melissa Dalton at CSIS.

Go deeper

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.
Go deeperArrow20 mins ago - Sports

Wall Street opens with 2% drop as coronavirus correction worsens

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The stock market opened 2% lower on Friday morning, pushing stocks further into correction territory.

Why it matters: It continues the ugly stretch for Wall Street that began after a spike in coronavirus cases around the world. The S&P is 12% below its recent peak, edging closer to the mark that would technically end the market’s decade-long rally.

Go deeper: The growing coronavirus recession threat

Coronavirus updates: First case in sub-Saharan Africa confirmed

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

Nigeria confirmed its first novel coronavirus case in an Italian who flew to Lagos from Milan — the first known case in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization has been working to prepare Africa's health care systems to be ready for the outbreak, which is now also confirmed in Algeria and Egypt.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,850 people and infected over 83,700 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health