Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Ghost in the Shell', 'The Confession' and Jean Rouch centenary

Read more

FOCUS

Italy: Anti-establishment mayor of Rome faces grim reality of power

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Refugees of rap: Using music to speak out about the Syrian war

Read more

THE POLITICAL BRIEF

Rise of populism: Could far-right leader Le Pen be France's next president?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Countdown to Brexit: 'The eyes of history are watching'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Brexit: Day One'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Charity begins on Twitter

Read more

THE DEBATE

Famine as a weapon of war: 20 million lives at risk in Africa, Yemen (part 1)

Read more

THE DEBATE

Famine as a weapon of war: 20 million lives at risk in Africa, Yemen (part 2)

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. And you can watch it online as early as 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

2017-03-23 Europe

Video: Crimean dissidents silenced by Moscow

Three years after the annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, Russia has deployed all the tools at its disposal, in the police and the justice system, to silence...

Read more

2017-03-16 Americas

Canada’s indigenous people determined to improve their lives

Although Canada regularly tops international rankings for its quality of life, the daily existence of the country’s indigenous people, also known as "First Nations", has more in...

Read more

2017-03-09 Middle East

Iraq's lost children: Victims of post-traumatic stress

In Iraq, thousands of civilians are fleeing the battle of Mosul against the Islamic State group jihadists. Many of the displaced have reached IDP camps in the north of the...

Read more

2017-03-03 Africa

Libya: Six years on, what remains of the revolution in key city of Zintan?

Six years have passed since the outbreak of the revolution that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi. With the country divided between rival clans,...

Read more