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Alaa Alyousef via AP

The issue

Russia, Syria, and the U.S. disagree about whether Syria used chemical weapons against its citizens in an April 4 attack. Russia and Syria claim Syria doesn't have chemical weapons, but the U.S. says it has evidence the Syrian government deployed the chemical attack and that Russia knew about it beforehand.

As the international community probes into who was behind the attack, here's what you need to know about chemical weapons:

The facts

A chemical weapon is commonly thought to be a commercial chemical that is used against people to cause mass casualties. But it's not just the chemical used in an attack — it's also the method of deployment, per the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). That means if a country possesses the munitions or equipment to deploy chemicals, but not the chemicals themselves, it is still in violation of humanitarian and criminal laws.

History: Chemical weapons were first used widely in World War I. Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, Japanese Emperor Hirohito, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein have all been responsible for deploying chemical weapons.

Countries with declared chemical weapons production facilities, per the OPCW: Russia, Syria, Iran, China, Iraq, Libya, UK, U.S., France, India, Japan, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, each at various stages in destruction plans.

Syria's accountability: Although Syria is party to the Geneva Gas Protocol, it is not party to the CWC. And because Syria isn't party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court, the court prosecutor can only take up the matter if there is a Security Council resolution authorizing it.

Why it matters

The bottom line is using chemical weapons is a war crime, but no one wants to be tagged with this atrocity.

Go deeper

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced a bill in the Senate that would impose a new tax on the assets of America's wealthiest individuals.

Why it matters: The plan, which Warren introduced along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is similar to a proposal that was the centerpiece of Warren's campaign for the presidency in 2020.

3 hours ago - World

Former French President Sarkozy sentenced to jail for corruption

Nicolas Sarkozy, 2011. Photo: XINHUA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A court in Paris on Monday sentenced former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of trying to bribe a magistrate, AP reports.

Driving the news: Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, is the first president in France’s modern history to have gone on trial for corruption, per AP. He was charged with corruption and influence-peddling.