Joining Senate Republicans Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the powerful chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a statement that bluntly accused the Syrian regime of crossing President Obama’s “red line” with its use of chemical weapons.
But while the White House has said all options remain on the table, administration officials are sounding less sure than Feinstein about Syria’s use of sarin gas. Foreign Policy reports that during a hastily organized conference call Thursday, a senior White House official pulled the Iraq WMD Card to buy the White House some time:
“I’d say that given our own history with intelligence assessments, including intelligence assessments related to weapons of mass destruction, it’s very important that we are able to establish this with certainty and that we are able to present information that is airtight in a public and credible fashion to underpin all of our decision-making. That is, I think, the threshold that is demanded given how serious this issue is,” the official said. “But again, I think nobody should have any mistake about what our red line is… It is absolutely the case that the president’s red line is the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups.”
Moreover, Politico reports that the White House has announced its intent to call for a “comprehensive United Nations investigation” and the need to “establish all the facts” before Washington decides how to proceed.
It was President Obama himself who said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer” in American foreign policy towards the two-year-old Syrian civil war. Now that Syrian President Bashar Assad has called Obama’s bluff and a high-ranking member of his own party has said as much, the president will be under intense pressure not to blink.
Waiting for the U.N. to act might not be blinking, but it sure sounds like a stall.
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