As US President Barack Obama seeks approval from Congress for a military strike on Syria while the G20 remains divided on this subject, let us look at some elements pertaining to the Syria dilemma with implications for future humanitarian interventions.
The general principle of humanitarian intervention and the new principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) call for international intervention to protect civilians when the state in question commits crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing, genocide or war crimes against its people or fails to protect its people from such crimes. In the case of Syria, strong evidence suggests that over the past two years, the Assad regime has committed crimes against humanity against its people. More than 100,000 deaths have been reported.
Chemical weapons, such as sarin gas, are considered weapons of mass destruction and the use of such weapons is considered a war crime, one of the four crimes that can trigger international intervention.