Today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, and the White House all stated that their position is now that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in recent months — a development which the president said last year would constitute a “red line” that would “change [the] equation” regarding the possiblity of U.S. intervention. Essentially, they’ve all explained that the U.S. intelligence community has now concluded with some confidence that the Assad regime has used “chemical weapons on a small scale,” specifically, sarin gas, explaining that this is based in part on “physiological evidence” rather than merely reports. Kerry specifically stated to reporters today that there have been two instances in which chemical weapons have been used.
Britain and France — which have been running ahead of the U.S. in terms of support for the Syrian rebels, recognizing them as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people before the U.S. did, and calling for the rebels to be armed by the West (which the U.S. has not done) — announced last week that they believed chemical weapons had already been used. Reports have been coming forth from Syria about the use of such weapons for quite a while now, but there now appears finally to be a consensus that the government has used them. The death toll from Syria’s civil war now likely exceeds 70,000; the country’s international refugees number more than 1 million, in addition to as many as 4 million people who have been internally displaced.
The White House’s letter to the relevant legislators is here: