Syria crosses 'red line' on chemical weapons. How will Obama respond? (+video)
US officials say the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons 'multiple times' to kill at least 100 rebel fighters and civilians. Obama had warned Syria of 'enormous consequences' if it crossed that 'red line.'
In a warning last summer to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Obama said a “red line” would have been crossed if chemical weapons were used against rebels fighting there, and he promised “enormous consequences” if that were to happen.Skip to next paragraph
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Brad Knickerbocker is a staff writer and editor based in Ashland, Oregon.
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According to news reports Thursday and a direct statement by the White House, that red line clearly has been crossed with chemical weapons used to kill between 100 and 150 people. But the White House was vague about its immediate response, other than to note it would "increase the scope and scale of assistance" to the anti-Assad rebels.
“Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said in a statement. “Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information.”
“The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete,” Mr. Rhodes said, indicating that there may well be more casualties from chemical weapons.
“The body of information used to make this intelligence assessment includes reporting regarding Syrian officials planning and executing regime chemical weapons attacks; reporting that includes descriptions of the time, location, and means of attack; and descriptions of physiological symptoms that are consistent with exposure to a chemical weapons agent,” Rhodes said.
In his earlier warning to Syria, Obama had said this: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime but also to other players on the ground that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons being moved around or utilized. There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movements on the chemical weapons or use, that would change my calculations significantly.”
“A whole bunch of chemical weapons” and “change my calculations significantly” are phrases designed for maximum flexibility.