Obama's Red Line: Will the US intervene in Syria?


There are continued allegations that Syria is using chemical weapons that was supposed to be a Red Line for the U.S. Is it anymore?

Chemical Weapons in Syria's civil war

"When I've said the use of chemical weapons would be a game changer, that wasn't unique to -- that wasn't a position unique to the United States, and it shouldn't have been a surprise. And what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don't know how they were used, when they were used, who used them; we don't have chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened." - US President Barack Obama

The US President was careful with his language yesterday. For months, the White House maintained the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war would be - as we heard - a game changer. The proof seemed to arrive last week.

"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." - US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel

The Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, was quick to say Washington believes that so far, chemical weapons have been used only on a small scale. He wouldn't confirm how the exposure occurred and under what circumstances.

Here's Barack Obama from last August.

"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. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation." - US President Barack Obama

Key words like -- "change" and "red line" were there then too. But so was the statement that if Assad or any other player were using such tactics there would be consequences. Now just what kind of consequences, who may face them and when -- appears to be shifting.

Member of council of Dariya, Abo Yamen

While there is skepticism, doubt and denial about the presence of chemical weapons, a man living in a southern suburb of Damascus believes he saw evidence of a chemical weapon attack last week.

Abo Yamen is a member of the local coordinating council of Dariya, a media group affiliated with the Syrian opposition. We reached Abo Yamen on Skype in Dariya.

Panel: Dr. Emile Nakhleh / Dr. Stephen Zunes

So has Barack Obama's red line been crossed? And if it has, what should Washington do? Our next two guests have thought a lot about this.

Dr. Emile Nakhleh a former senior analyst and director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program at the CIA. He is now a Research Professor at the University of New Mexico and he joined us from Albuquerque.

And Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he chairs the program in Middle Eastern Studies. And he joined us from San Francisco.

This segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar and Catherine Kalbfleisch.

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