Syria crossed ‘red line’ using chemical weapons on rebels — White House

Published time: June 13, 2013 21:09
Edited time: June 13, 2013 22:21

AFP Photo / Dimitar Dilkoff

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American officials say they have confirmed that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the insurgency seeking to remove it, asserting that the move crosses a “red line.”

An internal memorandum circulating within the Obama
administration has assessed that chemical weapons, most likely
the nerve gas sarin, were used multiple times in battle against
the Syrian rebels.

The “intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has
used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition
multiple times in the last year
,” according to that memo, as
cited by The New York Times. 

White House officials speculated over evidence that nerve gas had
been used as of April, but that evidence is now being called
definitive” — with Congressional sources describing the
conclusion as crossing the “red line” for US intervention
as previously defined by the president.

According to officials who spoke with the Wall Street Journal on
Thursday, the US military is currently considering a proposal for
arming factions of the Syrian insurgency — as well as
establishing a limited no-fly zone over the country to be
enforced from nearby Jordanian territory.

That no-fly zone could stretch for up to 25 miles into Syrian
territory, and would be set up in a bid to train and equip rebel
forces and protect refugees, officials said. 

A no-fly zone would not require the destruction of Syrian
antiaircraft batteries, according to the accounts cited in
American media. The White House could alternatively authorize the
arming and training of the Syrian opposition in Jordan without a
no-fly zone.

Congress was being notified of the conclusions over chemical
weapons use in the country on Thursday in classified documents.
Findings were corroborated by evidence sent to the US by France,
which along with Britain claimed that Assad’s forces had used
chemical weapons.

In a conference call to reporters on Thursday, the White House
said that the intelligence community estimates that as many as
150 people, or about 0.16 per cent (0.0016) of the 93,000
reported deaths in the Syrian conflict, could have been a result
of chemical weapons used by pro-Assad forces.

The White House said during the same call that the US “will
make decisions on our own timeline
” regarding the next steps
on Syria. President Obama will consult with G8 partners,
including Russia, about Syria next week.  

Republican senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham called on the
US to provide “lethal assistance, especially ammunition &
heavy weapons
” to Syria’s rebels on Thursday.

The President must rally an international coalition to take
military actions to degrade Assad’s ability to use airpower and
ballistic missiles and to move and resupply his forces around the
battlefield by air
,” said a joint statement by the pair.

As a UN probe was underway into allegations of chemical weapons
use in May, lead investigator Carla Del Ponte said the findings
showed that rebels were behind at least one chemical weapons
attack. “This was used on the part of the opposition, the
rebels, not by the government authorities
,” Del Ponte told
Swiss TV.

This article originally appeared on: RT