Thursday morning, the Associated Press reported that newly-installed Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told a group of reporters in Abu Dhabi that it was likely that the current Syrian regime had used chemical weapons on a “small scale,” adding, “It violates every convention of warfare.”
Because President Barack Obama has stated that the use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer” in the U.S. approach to intervention in Syria’s two-year-old ongoing civil war, Hagel’s words hit like a thunderclap across the media.
Soon after, via their verified Twitter feed, Reuters reported that the White House seemed to be walking that claim back just a bit:
White House: U.S. intelligence assessments on Syria chemical weapons are not enough; credible and corroborated facts needed #breaking
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) April 25, 2013
CNN is reporting that the comment came from Miguel Rodriguez, an assistant to President Obama. CNN’s reporting added that, according to Rodriguez, there are “physiological samples” that show evidence of sarin, but this was not considered definitive proof: “Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts.”
Politico reports that members of Congress have been notified of this turn of events that could potentially result in a dramatic turn in U.S. foreign policy:
The Obama administration has notified members of Congress that intelligence has found evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons, according to letters to lawmakers released by the White House on Thursday.
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” the letter reads.
News is just now breaking via Twitter that Secretary of State John Kerry is also claiming Syria launched chemical attacks.
ADDED: Here is the text of the White House letter to Senators.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC