Syria’s Chemical Weapons and Obama’s “Red Line”

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Last week, Britain and France asked the UN to investigate evidence that Syria has used chemical weapons in its ongoing civil war.  Yesterday, Israel’s top military intelligence analyst said photographs from attacks near Aleppo and Damascus show victims with constricted pupils foaming at the mouth—possible signs of the nerve agent sarin.  He told an international conference in Jerusalem that, without “appropriate reaction,” Syria might conclude such use is “legitimate.”  The Syrian government concedes it has chemical weapons but promises not to use them—unless there is foreign intervention.

President Obama has said even moving such weapons around would be a “game changer” and constitute a “red line.”  But just what did he mean? If there’s persuasive evidence, and the US fails to act, will Syria be emboldened by what seems a hollow warning?  

Available options include arming some rebels, establishing a “no-fly zone” and trying to seize or destroy the weapons.  We’ll look at the prospects for increased US involvement.




Warren Olney