The House and Senate Intelligence Committee chairs suggested on Tuesday that it appears likely that the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his own people.
Syrian government officials and rebels there have been accusing each other recently of using chemical weapons, but, as the New York Times noted, “neither side presented clear documentation.”
“I’m told that the White House has been briefed…and the White House has to make some decisions in this,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) said on CNN. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) went a bit further. “I have a high probability to believe chemical weapons were used,” he told CNN. “We need that final verification but given everything we know over the last year and a half, I…would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use or in fact have been used, and in both of those scenarios I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
If true, that would put the spotlight on Obama administration, as the president said last year that Assad using chemical weapons would change his “calculus.” “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,” Obama said. “That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.”
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that “[t]he United Nations official responsible for aiding Syrian refugees painted his bleakest picture to date Tuesday, describing a humanitarian crisis that is ‘dramatic beyond description’ and a country and people so destroyed that they could take years to recover under the best of circumstances.”
In other news:
- On the heels of Barack Obama’s first trip to Israel as president, 26 senators signed a letter calling for “a sustained US diplomatic initiative to help forge a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on a two-state solution.”
- An analysis by the Financial Times reveals the extent to which both American and foreign companies have profited from the conflict — with the top 10 contractors securing business worth at least $72bn between them.