The United States Department of Defense says they suspect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on a "small scale" against
opposition fighters in that country's ongoing civil war.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made the claim Thursday while speaking in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, adding that the American intelligence
community has determined "with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically
the chemical agent sarin."
Hagel insisted that the use of chemical weapons by any army would violate international guidelines for armed conflicts, and said confirmation of these
reports would be a "game changer" in terms of America's role in the Syrian civil war.
"It violates every convention of warfare," said Hagel, the Associated Press reports.
The White House informed Congress about the use of chemical weapons during a Thursday briefing, continues the AP. White House legislative director
Miguel Rodriguez sent a letter to Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) explaining 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."
"Thus far, we believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons, and has demonstrated a willingness to escalate its horrific use of
violence against the Syrian people," Foreign Policy quotes from the letter.
Moments after news of the letter were first reported, Sen. McCain walked out of a briefing in Washington with Secretary of State John Kerry and told
reporters, "We just received a letter from the president in response to our question about whether Assad had used chemical weapons."
Kerry, reports the AP, said the Syrian regime launched two chemical weapons attacks during that Thursday morning meeting, which Foreign Policy says
was attended by reportedly all US senators, as well as representatives for the office of the director of national intelligence and the Federal Bureau
US President Barack Obama said previously that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line" that could trigger US reaction if crossed.
On Thursday Rodriguez wrote on behalf of the administration that "physiological samples" has led the White House to reassess the claims that Assad
has used chemical warfare.
Britain, France, Qatar and the Israel Defense Forces have also said in recent days that Israeli intelligence has led them to believe Assad has used
Intelligence assessments on Syrian chemical weapons are "not enough," Reuters quotes the White House, adding that "credit and corroborated facts"
Even one day earlier, Sec. Hagel himself had doubts about the rumored use of chemical weapons. Speaking in Cairo, Egypt on Wednesday, Hagel said that
Israeli claims of Assad employing chemical warfare were "suspicious" and that "we have to be very careful here before we draw any conclusions based
on real intelligence."
"The use of chemical weapons in an environment like Syria is very difficult to confirm," a senior US Defense official told the Los Angeles Times in
response while speaking on condition of anonymity. "Given the stakes involved, low-confidence assessments by foreign governments cannot be the basis
for US action."
that was sorta expected. The government forces make strong advances against the rebels, and something had to be done. the administration has pulled
forth its trump card. The red line has been crossed, they were just waiting to spring forth with a good excuse. And of course, sometimes, as we've
seen in the past, if no good reason makes itself available, they create one. We really needed another war. Iraq is yesterday's new--how are things
going there by the way?--and the Afghanistan effort is petering out because somebody finally understood what they had been told from day one of that
affair and that was that we can't win there either.
Are thing ripening in Africa somewhere, or will we yet put Egypt on the list? 'Gotta keep that military-industrial complex in high gear.
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