Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Erdogan to rid Turkish institutions of ‘separatist cancer’ after coup attempt

Read more

ENCORE!

The best of summer music festivals in France

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Going for gold: French athletes train for Rio Olympics

Read more

#TECH 24

Digital beauty

Read more

FOCUS

Women doctors in Pakistan challenge the status quo

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Trump hopes to reset America's trade relations

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'Donald Trump's speech was just another scam'

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Cazeneuve at the heart of Nice security controversy

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

South Africa: Prosecutors seek longer sentence for Oscar Pistorius

Read more

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.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2014-03-17

The inside story on when Assad crossed the ‘red line’

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

2016-07-08 history

Video: The trial of Chad's ex-dictator Habré, an inconvenient ally

In May, former Chadian president Hissène Habré, who ruled his country with an iron fist between 1982 and 1990, was sentenced to life in prison for "crimes against humanity,...

Read more

2016-07-01 agriculture

Video: FRANCE 24 speaks to French farmers in crisis

France is the EU's largest agricultural producer, but its farmers are faced with administrative constraints, falling sales prices and debt. Many are pushed into depression and...

Read more

2016-06-23 World War I

World War I: When northern France was on German time

During World War I, thirteen of France's regional departments were under German occupation. For four years, two million French citizens took their orders from Berlin. No more...

Read more

2016-06-17 USA

Video: American conservatives strike back

Some southern US lawmakers have launched a legislative offensive to protect the "religious freedom" they believe is under threat. In Mississippi, homosexuals can now be denied...

Read more

2016-06-09 Iran

Video: A year of change for Iran since nuclear accord

It’s now been a year since Iran struck its historic nuclear accord with six world powers under which Tehran vowed to curb its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of...

Read more