U.S. officials announced Thursday that the Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against his opposition, killing up to 150 people in the last year and crossing what President Barack Obama has called a "red line" that would lead to greater American involvement in the crisis.
The statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said,
“Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete.”
The statement reiterated President Obama’s repeated statements that the use of chemical weapons would cross a red line saying that “the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades.”
The announcement from the White House went on to say that the use of chemical weapons by Syria has changed the President’s calculus and that consequently the president has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and has also authorized the expansion of assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC).
Congress was also being notified of the chemical weapons determination on Thursday in classified documents sent to Capitol Hill, the officials said. The finding was aided by evidence sent to the United States by France, which along with Britain, announced last week that they had determined that Assad's government had used chemical weapons in the two-year conflict.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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