Red Line Crossed: U.S. Officials Confirm Syrian Chemical-Weapons Use

The U.S. believes sarin-gas attacks have killed 100 to 150 Syrians

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Khalil Ashawi / REUTERS

A boy carries a weapon as he walks with members of the Free Syrian Army on a damaged street filled with debris in Deir ez-Zor on June 12, 2013

American officials confirmed Thursday that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebel groups in the country’s two-year civil war, setting the stage for U.S. military assistance to opposition fighters and potential intervention.

The development, announced Thursday by Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, puts the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad over President Barack Obama’s “red line” announced in August 2012 promising severe consequences for the use of chemical weapons.

“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 moving around or being utilized,” Obama said at the time. “That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

On April 25, 2013, the White House informed members of Congress that the government believed that Syrian forces had used the nerve agent sarin on a “small scale,” according to physiological evidence collected. Obama and aides have stressed the need for a full investigation into the use — an investigation that has now resulted in confirmation of the use of chemical weapons.

“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,” Rhodes said in a statement Thursday. “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,” he added.

On a conference call with reporters, Rhodes said the U.S. will be increasing its direct support to the Supreme Military Council, but did not specify whether lethal aid will flow into Syria. “It is both the political and military opposition that are and will be receiving assistance,” he said.

“The President has made a decision on providing more support to Syrian opposition,” Rhodes said, declining to “layout an inventory” of that assistance or say if lethal aid will be provided. “That includes military support.”

Rhodes said no decision had been made to pursue a no-fly zone, adding there’s no “clear guarantee” it would help.

“The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available,” he said. “We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline.”

In a joint statement, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain encouraged Obama to provide lethal assistance to the rebels.

“The President’s red line has been crossed,” they said. “U.S. credibility is on the line. Now is not the time to merely take the next incremental step. Now is the time for more decisive actions.”

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner, said, “It is long past time to bring the Assad regime’s bloodshed in Syria to an end. As President Obama examines his options, it is our hope he will properly consult with Congress before taking any action.”

Rhodes said the White House is updating members of Congress on the developments and that the U.S. has briefed allies and the U.N. on its investigation and has informed Russia, one of the Syrian government’s few supporters.

Statement by Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical-Weapons Use

At the President’s direction, the United States Government has been closely monitoring the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. Following the assessment made by our intelligence community in April, the President directed the intelligence community to seek credible and corroborated information to build on that assessment and establish the facts with some degree of certainty. Today, we are providing an updated version of our assessment to Congress and to the public.

The Syrian government’s refusal to grant access to the United Nations to investigate any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use has prevented a comprehensive investigation as called for by the international community. The Assad regime could prove that its request for an investigation was not just a diversionary tactic by granting the U.N. fact finding mission immediate and unfettered access to conduct on-site investigations to help reveal the truth about chemical weapons use in Syria. While pushing for a U.N. investigation, the United States has also been working urgently with our partners and allies as well as individuals inside Syria, including the Syrian opposition, to procure, share, and evaluate information associated with reports of chemical weapons use so that we can establish the facts and determine what took place.

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. 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. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used 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. Some open source reports from social media outlets from Syrian opposition groups and other media sources are consistent with the information we have obtained regarding chemical weapons use and exposure. The assessment is further supported by laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. Each positive result indicates that an individual was exposed to sarin, but it does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination.

We are working with allies to present a credible, evidentiary case to share with the international community and the public. Since the creation of the U.N. fact finding mission, we have provided two briefings to Dr. Åke Sellström, the head of the mission. We will also be providing a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban, calling the U.N.’s attention to our updated intelligence assessment and specific incidents of alleged chemical weapons use. We request that the U.N. mission include these incidents in its ongoing investigation and report, as appropriate, on its findings. We will present additional information and continue to update Dr. Sellström as new developments emerge.

The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons — or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups — is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has. Our decision making has already been guided by the April intelligence assessment and by the regime’s escalation of horrific violence against its citizens. Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks. This effort is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC, and helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies. Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward.

The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available. We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline. Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity.

55 comments
azmalhome
azmalhome

 Quran 5:51 O you who have believed, do not take the Jews and the Christians as allies. They are [in fact] allies of one another. And whoever is an ally to them among you – then indeed, he is [one] of them.Indeed, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.

 Quran 2: 120 “never will the Jews and the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, "Indeed, the guidance of Allah is the [only] guidance." If you were to follow their desires after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper.”

http://azmalhome.wordpress.com

Who those Muslim will go to suck the leg of non-Muslim powerful leader around when they got the trouble? The world’s popular media says “those are good Muslim”.

Quran13: But those who break the covenant of Allah after contracting it and sever that which Allah has ordered to be joined and spread corruption on earth – for them is the curse, and they will have the worst home….

http://azmalhome.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/islamic-terrorism/

Markgm
Markgm

I want to know and see who those physiologically examined guys they've got are, that got hit with the light dose of chemical weapons.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

Recapping: The first 2 years Obama has the majority in the Congress. This suave and heavy talking man, just didn't have the COJONES to govern as a majority president.  He caved in to the righteous constitutional waving right wings. The rest of his first and the starting of his second term is a pattern of bowing to the Republicans that is shameful. He is not a President, he is just a rubber stamp for the wishes of the ones that are REALLY GOVERNING. Now this, don't you realize, Americans, that he is the recipient of the commands of the Republicans. YOU DIDN'T ELECT A DEMOCRAT, YOU JUST ELECTED A PUPPET OF THE RIGHT WINGS AND A PUPPET OF A FOREIGN COUNTRY. THAT'S ALL.

JimFisher
JimFisher

Ultimately the leaders of the west do whatever they want, they just use the mainstream media to get enough dummies onboard that it looks like they listen to the will of the people. Its top down control. 

RobCentros
RobCentros

Nobody is buying this B.S. Nobody. It smells to high heaven. So do we really want a war with Russia over a gas pipeline through Syria? 

RobCentros
RobCentros

That gas off the coast of Syria must be really tempting. Unfortunately Russia is not going to let you have it, Obama

RobCentros
RobCentros

More lies by "our" lying government. Will wonders never cease? Strange, it was in a rebel camp in Turkey where an actual sarin gas canister was found. Funny that didn't make into the Time's news feed.

OldFashionedLiberal
OldFashionedLiberal

Here's a question for you: who has LESS credibility, the American government when offering "proof" of WMDs in foreign countries or anyone else you can name? I wouldn't believe the CIA if they told me they had proof the sun came up this morning. WE are the only country in history ever to deploy a nuclear weapon against civilians. Our civil war 150 years ago (when the population of the country was under 50 million) killed more than 600,000 soldiers and uncounted civilians (Killers like us don't like it when the civilian casualties are counted). We're hardly in a position to invade Syria for killing a few civilians when we have killed so many with our bombs, napalm, and other terrorist weapons.

Please stop us before we kill again!

Markgm
Markgm

Ridiculous once again... For Carla Del Ponte of the UN (in May) all testimony was to Syrian opposition using chemical weapons.  Two weeks ago, Turkish police actually caught Al Nusra with sarin going into Syria (from Turkey).  8 months ago, opposition fighters made videos of using sarin to kill rabbits and they threatened sectarian gassings.  We are living in tyranny.

aztecian
aztecian

maybe we get the muslim brotherhood in power...we can call it arab summer.  look how happy the egyptians are their democracy.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

WHO DOES OBAMA THINK HE IS? THE IMPERIAL WIZARD OF THE RIGHTEOUS HYPOCRITES? THE RED LINE? WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN MR BUSH CHENNEY OBAMA IF THE RUSSIANS DECIDE TO INTERVENE? DO YOU HAVE THE GUTS TO START ANOTHER BIG WAR WITH NO MONEY IN THE COFFERS? THE REUNION THAT YOU, MR BUSHCHENNEY OBAMA, HAD WITH MR XI WAS ABOUT TO SELL HIM ANOTHER TRILLION DOLLARS IN BONDS SO YOU CAN PAY FOR THIS WAR THAT YOU ARE STUPIDLY STARTING? IF THIS AGAIN TURNS UP BAD, DO YOU THINK THAT MR MAC CAIN IS GOING TO SUPPORT YOU WITH THIS FAILURE? AGAIN YOU ARE USING LIES TO GET INTO ANOTHER WAR. YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A DARK VERSION OF BUSH AND CHENEY.

ReyHast
ReyHast

To those who still believed on Freedom and Democracy, its just a change of powers transferring specially on this part of the world, its has been none. always rule and imposed by outsiders. Identical claims by the USA against Saddam Hussein before the invasion. Will please at least try another or turn the pages from the USA manual of how to invade a country.

crownretro
crownretro

So that's where Saddam's fake WMDs went...

Doe's anyone actually believe this crap anymore? Unfortunately yes.

LamSam
LamSam

They are trying to divert the attention from NSA incident

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

HYPOCRITES, A THOUSAND TIMES HYPOCRITES!. What about the use of chemical weapons by the USA AGAINST VIETNAM. DEFOLIATORS, NAPALM. WHAT WERE THEY?  PETARDS? What about the use of Napalm and phosphorous bombs by the Israelis against the Palestinians?  Who supplied the Hussein regime with chemical weapons used against the Kurds? Obama is the BLACK VERSION OF BUSH!. LIARS AND INTERNATIONAL LAWS VIOLATORS. I HOPE THE RUSSIANS STOP THIS VERSION OF PRUDISH PREOCUPATION.

drsevilla
drsevilla

"Senators Lindsey Graham & John McCain encouraged Obama to provide lethal assistance to the rebels."  I agree.  Send both senators in full battle gear, as we don't need those aged senators in Congress representing us any more!

aztecian
aztecian

let's help syria become the next islamic republic.

MustBeReallyBored
MustBeReallyBored

Aaaaaah! Nice try on the subject change! However, I don't want hear chemical weapons were used, I wanna see the carcasses, toxicology reports, and most importantly, why weren't a whole lot more people killed? Any chemical warfare agent is pretty indiscriminate, and if non persistent lethal agents where used, all you'd have is a pile of bodies and not much else in the way of proof.

I'm thinking a pile of bodies got dressed up for a photo session, and Obama is grabbing at the opportunity to divert attention from home.

StephenDing
StephenDing

I'm sure plenty of people are against getting involved, but think about this: are we so cold-hearted that we will not help those who want freedom? These people in Syria want their freedom. Sure the US screwed up in Iraq and Afghanistan, but here we are faced with people who want freedom and the US, the epitome of freedom refuses to help. Does America want such a legacy in a region that already hates it?

genericalternativeemail
genericalternativeemail

Congratulations Obama, you just became Nixon.

-Massive deficit increases
-Suppression of Civil liberties
-Wiretapping
-Unnecessary involvement in a war that has no relevance to us, or the west in particular.


In addition to arming soldiers that are engaged in ethnic cleansing of Shia, Christians, and Druze.  Surely you don't want that legacy, do you?

therealdude
therealdude

I hope we don't get involved in this because if we do it could potentially get a bunch of Americans killed, cost trillions, maybe even re-ignite the cold war...and all over a bunch of people who hate America anyway.

swagger
swagger

here we go again even with a majority of americans dead set against the perpetual war that makes perpetual enemies and produces only negative consequences.  now it seems obvious that we are doing all we can to destabilize governments so that defense contractors have jobs.

aztecian
aztecian

what happened to north korea?  where is the boggy-man now...syria?

ryepim
ryepim

Obama is just spending money he doesn't have! America is in terrible debt..

n7specops
n7specops

YAY! more of our money being spent when it shouldn't be XD.

destor23
destor23

We went through this once and the conclusion was that both sides have probably committed war crimes and used chemical weapons.  Now we're doing it again?  It seems like there are forces at work who refuse to let us not become involved, whether involvement in Syria has popular support or not.

HollyKick
HollyKick

There is bad and then whoever is against the bad, america thinks that is good, but in arab countries its bad against the bad ... free syria army will soon be behind america ... removing assad is critical they are bad .. but is there anything we can do to help them .. its their plight, all they think about is how do we kill america, rather than thinking about how do we fix ourselves and our countries.

HollyKick
HollyKick

Replacement -  There is bad and then there is bad. 

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Assad is clearly a bad man, but what have we seen in our Middle East experience to make us believe that who ever replaces him will be any better?

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

Addendum: Obama is the first black Republican elected RIDING ON A DONKEY.

jmac
jmac

@LamSam Made me laugh.  There is no NSA incident, unless you mean someone's going to jail - someone who belongs in jail.  NSA is just like the IRA scandal - you've got nothing.  

therealdude
therealdude

@drsevilla I wonder what they'll say down the road when those rebels turn our weapons and/or training against us....Just like they did in Afghanistan in the 1980's. History is repeating itself.

RobCentros
RobCentros

@StephenDing  --  You're aware that these "Syrian people who just want their freedom" are being brutalized daily by the vicious terrorist Al Nusra thugs, right? Their homes and businesses have been ransacked by these filthy pigs and the United States is saying "Hey fine, just so as we can get our Qatar gas pipeline and those gas reserves recently found off the coast of Syria ... err ... we mean so long as we take down that brutal dictator Assad ... who wouldn't allow us to run our pipeline across his country or give us that gas off his shore ... I mean, who has brutalized his people and uh ... you know ... all that." And what about our allies here Qatar and Saudi Arabia, these bastions of democracy? When are we going to support an "Arab Spring" uprising against them and free their people. What hypocrites and liars our worthless politicians really are.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@StephenDing you are another selective hypocrite! What about the Palestinian?  Where is your indignation? Oh, WOW, THE USA SCREWED UP IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN! What about all the civilians that have been killed by this heartfelt screw up? USA THE EPITOME OF FREEDOM? Or you are naïve or totally ignorant. Do you know what the PATRIOT ACT is?  THE EPITOME OF FREEDOM, oh yes, go to you tube and see the video of judge Napolitano, " CONSTITUTION FOR DUMMIES", DUMMIES LIKE YOU. YES YOU ARE A SELECTIVE WARM HEARTED. HAVEN'T YOU DONE ENOUGH HARM TO SOVEREIGN COUNTRIES?  THINK ABOUT THIS INSTEAD.

therealdude
therealdude

@StephenDing And when we free them, they'll band together to burn American flags and kill Americans. Add to that the potential bonus of re-starting the cold war with Russia.

Seriously, people need to take a real long, long hard look at who exactly these rebels are. I haven't exactly been keeping up with this conflict but a few weeks ago I heard Al Qaeda was fighting on the side of the rebels. That doesn't sound very good, does it?

LamSam
LamSam

"These people in Syria want their freedom"Haha... Are u kidding? Freedom? Just like the Iraqis and afghans wanted us to liberate them right? Some people in the country just cant seem to grow out of their childhood.

LamSam
LamSam

"These people in Syria want their freedom"

Haha... Are u kidding? Freedom? Just like the Iraqis and afghans wanted us to liberate them right? Some people in the country just cant seem to grow out of their childhood.

MustBeReallyBored
MustBeReallyBored

@StephenDing I'm OK with it, considering Syria was complicit in the bombing of the Marine barracks in '83.

These folks want freedom? Let them fight for it and figure things out for themselves. I for one am done with our wasting lives, reputation, and currency trying to bring "democracy" to folks who have never known what it was, and after we have armed them and spent trillions of dollars helping them rebuild, they tell us to leave, shouting "Al mout al Amreeka".

And we'd also have to deal with the ever meddling Russians, who, for having a tiny naval base in Syria, will take it upon themselves to be annoying in any way they can.

If Obama was serious, B2's would be dropping JDAMS all over Assad's homes and military command infrastructure. THAT would be considered helping the rebels in a meaningful way without arming them in a manner that would only prolong their civil war. We wouldn't have to send in troops, or the idiots from Halliburton, Xi, et. al., and give them a real reason to dislike us.

genericalternativeemail
genericalternativeemail

@StephenDing 

Democracy is fundamentally incompatible in regions with rampant tribalism combined with different sects of Islam.

What will result, if the rebels win, is an ethnic cleansing of Shia, Druze, and Christians by Sunni Wahhabists.

Assad, on the other hand, has a great incentive to prevent Shia on Sunni ethnic cleansing to keep his state together.

Do we really need to antagonize a region that no longer has any strategic relevance thanks to us getting our oil from Venezuela, the Great Plains, and Alaska?

duduong
duduong

@HollyKick 

I don't think the West really wants to help the rebels for rebels' sake. Obama fully recognizes that the situation is Sunni vs Shiite, neither of which likes the US. The goal here is to prolong the conflict so that these guys get to kill each other for as long as possible. It is not a coincidence that, within a week of Assad's victory in Qusayr, Obama suddenly needs an excuse to help the defeated rebels.

RobCentros
RobCentros

@mantisdragon91   We could get one of those "paragons of virtue" from our ally countries, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, both happy-go-lucky democracies!

LamSam
LamSam

How do you know he is a "bad" man? Because the media said so?

schoolednlife
schoolednlife

Your comment is wisely posted. I don't believe we should be involved as we will not be recognized, or appreciated for our participation, should we elect to do so. We never are viewed favorably in that region.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@duduong @HollyKick I don't think so. I actually  see Israel's fingerprints all over this. Now that Hezbollah has actively threw their support behind Assad, they know that no matter who replaces Assad will be an enemy of Hezbollah. In other words no matter which faction of the rebellion assumes power, Israel is playing with "house money".

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@LamSam I don't need the media for that. The fact that he is a "bad" man can clearly be seen by the heavy handed suppression of the initial protests which led to the current state of civil war.

danikvassin
danikvassin

@mantisdragon91 @RamonRoman @LamSam Occupy Wall Street was a nice experience, them Wiretaps are also pretty good, and who can forget widespread drone attacks, terrorism towards Iran, Gitmo. I find it amazing how Americans still see themselves as "free"


mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@RamonRoman @mantisdragon91 @LamSam When Obama kills and imprisons and tortures protestors the way Assad did he will be a bad man. Until then stop the hyperbole. There are legitimate concerns here that need to be discussed.

RamonRoman
RamonRoman

@mantisdragon91 @LamSam Aaah don't make me laugh. So Obama too is a bad, bad man because he quelled with a really heavy hand the protestor of New York. Where are you screaming to overthrow Obama, 'cause he is a bad, bad man?