Obama Administration Says Syria Has Used Chemical Weapons
The “red line” that the Obama Administration has talked about with regard to the civil war in Syria appears to have been crossed:
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — U.S. intelligence has concluded “with some degree of varying confidence,” that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.
Hagel, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, “our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin.”
“It violates every convention of warfare,” Hagel said.
No information was made public on what quantity of chemical weapons might have been used, or when or what casualties might have resulted.
President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would be a “game-changer” in the U.S. position on intervening in the Syrian civil war, and the letter to Congress reiterates that the use or transfer of chemical weapons in Syria is a “red line for the United States.” However, the letter also hints that a broad U.S. response is not imminent.
White House legislative director Miguel Rodriguez, who signed the letter, wrote that “because the president takes this issue so seriously, we have an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria.”
The letters went to Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Carl Levin, D-Mich.
The assessment, Rodriguez says, is based in part on “physiological samples.”
He also said the U.S. believes that the use of chemical weapons “originated with the Assad regime.” That is consistent with the Obama administration’s assertion that the Syrian rebels do not have access to the country’s stockpiles.
It’s also being reported that Secretary of State Kerry told reporters at the Capitol today that the Administration is aware of two instances where chemical weapons, presumably the Sarin referenced above, were used by the Syrian regime.
The question, of course, is what the United States does now. As Dave Schuler explained yesterday, the danger of a “red line” like the one the Administration put in place here is that it tends to back us into a corner. If we do nothing, it calls into question our resolve in the face of provocations from other nations such as Iran and North Korea. However, it’s entirely unclear what we can do that would not draw us into a conflict that we really don’t need to be getting involved in. So, what, exactly, does President Obama do here? Because it doesn’t seem like we’ve got any good options.