Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

EYE ON AFRICA

Mashujaa day: Kenyatta and Odinga call for peace before election rerun

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Kurdish referendum a ‘colossal mistake’, says son of late president Talabani

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

The new 30s club: NZ's Jacinda Ardern joins list of maverick leaders

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Raqqa, Kirkuk, Xi Jinping

Read more

REPORTERS

The Dictator's Games: A rare look inside Turkmenistan

Read more

#TECH 24

Teaching maths with holograms

Read more

DOWN TO EARTH

Is China exporting its pollution?

Read more

#THE 51%

Are female empowerment adverts actually good for the cause?

Read more

FOCUS

The mixed legacy of 'Abenomics' in Japan

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

2017-10-20 Asia-pacific

The Dictator's Games: A rare look inside Turkmenistan

As Turkmenistan hosted the Asian Games in the capital Ashgabat, our reporter managed to obtain a visa to cover the event. He brings us a rare look inside one of the world’s most...

Read more

2017-10-13 Europe

Video: Ghosts of 1917 revolution still haunt Russians

What remains of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia? FRANCE 24 brings you a special documentary on how Russians are living with this cumbersome legacy, as the Kremlin keeps a...

Read more

2017-10-06 Middle East

Video: After the war, life slowly returns to Mosul

FRANCE 24's reporters went back to Mosul, almost three months after Iraqi forces liberated the country’s second city from the grip of the Islamic State (IS) group. The scene of...

Read more

2017-09-29 Africa

Video: Beauty queens to the rescue in Sierra Leone

In January 2016, Sierra Leone, a small West African country torn apart by war and ranked among the poorest in the world, created a sensation at the Miss Universe event. For the...

Read more

2017-06-30 Saudi Arabia

Women in Saudi Arabia: A long road to equality

In Saudi Arabia, women are considered second-class citizens. They cannot drive or travel without the authorisation of a male guardian: a brother, father, cousin or even a son....

Read more