U.S. officials have confirmed that there is a “varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian Army loyal to Assad has used chemical weapons in small quantities, most likely sarin gas. This joins similar assessments by the U.K., France, and Israel. This crosses what Obama has called a “red line” and a “game changer.” It is unclear what the Administration will do. Currently, the administration is “pressing for a comprehensive United Nations investigation…”
A few caveats were attached to the administration’s letter, which was addressed to Senator McCain. For example, it says that these statements are based on “intelligence assessments” and not “corroborated facts”. It also states that it cannot confirm how the exposure [to the weapons] occurred and under what conditions.” Essentially, although they believe Assad to be responsible, they do not have sufficient evidence to prove the “chain of custody”.
Providing additional wiggle room is President’s Obama’s statements. While he stated that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line”, the extent of the response is not clear. Whether a military option will be used, and to what extent, is unclear. Would there be tactical raids specifically designed to capture chemical weapons? Would there be the institution of a no fly zone? Would there be an all-out invasion?
The current path seems to be leading through the U.N., and seeking additional proof of chemical weapons to avoid a WMD fiasco. The response of Russia and China, who have been supportive of the Assad regime, is unclear. Those two permanent members of the Security Council have consistently opposed intervention in the conflict. While all of these options are being weighed, Syria continues to burn with over 100,000 dead.
The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Believes Syria Used Gas: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324474004578444781818608180.html?mod=WSJWorld__LEFTTopStories
The Wall Street Journal, U.S. Lays Out Its Options, None Optimal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324743704578445063703612832.html?mod=WSJWorld_LEFTTopStories
The Washington Post, What is Obama’s Red Line on Chemical Weapons and What Happens if Syria Crosses It? http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/04/25/what-is-obamas-red-line-on-chemical-weapons-and-what-happens-if-syria-crosses-it/