Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Trump's visit to Israel in key images

Read more

ENCORE!

Naomi Campbell hosts 'Fashion For Relief' in Cannes

Read more

THE DEBATE

Peacemaker? After Saudi Arabia Trump visits Israel

Read more

ENCORE!

Cannes 2017: Nicole Kidman stars in 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

Green MEP Eva Joly: 'Nuclear energy is a technology from the past'

Read more

FOCUS

'Healing viruses' offer hope in fight against 'superbugs'

Read more

TALKING EUROPE

EU health check: Should the EU increase cross-border care?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

France's new president: Can Macron keep spirit of hope alive?

Read more

WOMEN IN SCIENCE

Lebanese prodigy Niveen Khabshab revolutionises cancer treatment

Read more

REPORTERS

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

Latest update : 2017-03-01

Syria’s chemical attacks: the inside story

A chemical weapons attack targeted the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013. The West threatened air strikes in response, and Syria agreed to destroy its chemical arms stockpile. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the crucial days that followed.

A “red line” that must not be crossed. Those were US President Barack Obama’s words in August 2012, and repeated several times after, designed to curtail the actions of the Syrian regime. The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, he said, would be a “game-changer”.

A year later, on August 21, 2013, the suburbs of Damascus were hit by a chemical attack. Anywhere from 300 to 1,400 people were killed and thousands more wounded, according to medics and opposition activists.

"Everything leads us to believe that it was the regime that committed this despicable act," said French President François Hollande six days later.

We went to Damascus just after the chemical attack. The people we met, even if they did not all say so on camera, feared Western air strikes. The population expected missiles to fall from one minute to the next, even though the Damascenes we met did not change their daily habits. They had already been experiencing war on a daily basis for some time.

But despite the Franco-American threats, no Tomahawks came to target the Syrian capital or its surroundings.

To everyone's surprise, Damascus agreed to dispose of its entire chemical arsenal, following a Russian proposal. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad managed to defuse the crisis.

In this documentary, I wanted to revisit this crucial episode in the Syrian conflict and try to go behind the scenes. Are we even certain that Assad's army is responsible for the chemical attack?

Despite the accusations from key Western powers, the UN High Representative for Disarmament, Angela Kane, explained that “no evidence" pointing to a culprit "would hold up in court”.

The Syrian ambassador to the UN, Bashar Ja'afari, and opposition figure Michel Kilo, twice imprisoned in Syria, each deliver their own version of events.

Peter Baker, a journalist at the New York Times, analyses Obama's stance and tells us about behind-the-scenes negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Finally, Republican Senator John McCain, who challenged Obama in the 2008 race for the White House, tells us that the Russians "played US Secretary of State John Kerry like a violin" in negotiations over Syria.

 

By Antoine MARIOTTI

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2017-05-18 Asia-pacific

Video: India's battle against 'superbugs'

It’s the gravest healthcare threat facing humanity. The World Health Organization has estimated that antibiotic resistance, or ‘superbugs’ as these bacteria have come to be...

Read more

2017-05-12 Middle East

How natural gas could be a geopolitical game-changer in the Mideast

It's a discovery that could easily shake up the geopolitical order in the Middle East. Deep under the eastern Mediterranean lies the largest natural gas basin ever found on...

Read more

2017-05-04 Asia-pacific

Forced into exile: The plight of the Rohingyas

There are more than 1.3 million Rohingya people in the world. Although they have lived in Burma for more than two centuries, this Muslim minority is not among those officially...

Read more

2017-04-28 Spain

The booming business of cannabis in Spain

In Spain, thanks to the success of the "clubs" that have cropped up since 2011, cannabis has become a gold mine. From by-products such as cannabis lollipops and drinks, to...

Read more

2017-04-21 France

Battle to stop nuclear waste being buried in a French village

The village of Bure, in eastern France, has become a battleground for environmentalists. It has been chosen as a site to bury radioactive waste, 500 metres underground. An...

Read more