The Obama administration shares the suspicions of several of its allies that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, a senior official said Wednesday, but it lacks the conclusive evidence that President Obama has said would lead to American intervention.
Faced with mounting pressure to act against Syria — including a new assertion by an Israeli military intelligence official on Tuesday that Syria repeatedly used chemical weapons — the United States is waiting for the results of an exhaustive analysis of soil, hair and other material to determine whether chemical warfare agents have been used.
You mean we're actually waiting to gather evidence ourselves before making it up and plunging the country into combat? How novel.
Even if that investigation proves the use of chemicals, this official said, the White House must determine who used them and whether they were used deliberately or accidentally. He did not offer a timetable for that process.“It is precisely because this is a red line that we have to establish with airtight certainty that this happened,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could discuss internal deliberations. “The bar on the United States is higher than on anyone else, both because of our capabilities and because of our history in Iraq.”Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking in Cairo during a Middle East tour that has been dominated by worries about Syria, said, “Suspicions are one thing; evidence is another.”
Amazing. Here we have the Obama administration, including the Secretary of Defense, actively saying that after Iraq, we need to have a higher threshold of evidence before we commit to using our military. The President will continue to fail to get any credit for that, Team Drones will just yell "Drones!" some more and the right will say that his lack of thirst for ground war means he's a wimp, unlike Bush who totally won Iraq by himself.
But here we are, not invading a country for once. And silence from the usual suspects. That is, unless we actually do find that evidence, in which case things get really interesting...
The U.S. intelligence community has uncovered strong evidence that chemical weapons have been used in Syria. Several blood samples, taken from multiple people, have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, an American intelligence source tells Danger Room. President Obama has long said that the use of such a weapon by the Assad regime would cross a “red line.” So now the question becomes: What will the White House do in response?
We're going to find out very soon.