Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has confirmed US intelligence reports that Syria used chemical weapons on its own citizens. President Obama has previously described the use of Syria's chemical weapons — the third-largest stockpile of such in the world — as a "red line" that if crossed would trigger military response from the United States.
Speaking in the United Arab Emirates, Secretary Hagel described this action as violating "every convention of warfare," though he refrained from providing details. The White House is waiting for further confirmation on the report, which puts tremendous pressure on the Obama administration to take a definitive stand against President Bashar al-Assad's dictatorial regime. Even in this morning's conferences, the administration's statement pointedly stated that "intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient."
War with Syria would not only push us into another regional crisis that is likely out of our financial and political boundaries, but would also prompt known Syrian allies like Russia and Iran to enter the military confrontation.
As recently as yesterday White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried to damp down reports of Syrian chemical weapons use, emphasizing that, "It's important that we do whatever we can to monitor, investigate and verify any credible allegations, given the enormous consequences for the Syrian people and given the president's clear statement that chemical weapons use is unacceptable."
Hagel was skeptical about reports earlier this week from Israeli military describing victims found "foaming at the mouth and having constricted pupils" following attacks in Aleppo and Damascus on March 19th. The United Nations was petitioned by Britain and France last week regarding chemical weapons used by Syria, but the soil sample used as evidence was found to be incomplete for any assertive action to be taken.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been leading the diplomatic push on Syria, simultaneously meeting with rebel leaders and trying to talk President Bashar al-Assad into realizing the reality of his country's political landscape. President Bashar al-Assad has shown no public remorse of his now over two year-old attack on his own people to retain power.
In March, President Obama even described the Syrian president as having "lost his legitimacy to lead by attacking the Syrian people with almost every conventional weapon in his arsenal, including Scud missiles. And we have been clear that the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people would be a serious and tragic mistake."
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is one of the vocal proponents of military action against Syria, but is concerned about the Obama administration's reluctance to follow its own promises, telling Fox News Thursday morning that he worries "the president and the administration will use these caveats as an excuse not to act right away, or to act at all, because the president clearly stated that this was a red line."
Will war with Syria turn into another Iraq or Afghanistan? Discuss what you think President Obama is likely to do below or on Twitter with me @shwetika.