Obama: We can’t confirm who used chemical weapons in Syria
The United States still has not been able to confirm the details of two instances of chemical weapons use in Syria and no new actions have been chosen in response to their use, President Barack Obama said Tuesday. Obama defended his administration’s response to the two year war in Syria during a press conference Tuesday ...
The United States still has not been able to confirm the details of two instances of chemical weapons use in Syria and no new actions have been chosen in response to their use, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
Obama defended his administration’s response to the two year war in Syria during a press conference Tuesday that was called to commemorate the 100 day anniversary of his second term in office.
"I think it’s important to understand that for several years now what we’ve been seeing is a slowly unfolding disaster for the Syrian people, and this is not a situation in which we’ve been simply bystanders to what’s been happening," he said. "My policy from the beginning has been President Assad had lost credibility; that he attacked his own people, has killed his own people, unleashed a military against innocent civilians; and that the only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is going to be for Assad to step down and to move forward on a political transition."
The president repeated his assertion that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "game changer" for the United States and the international community, but he said the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment last week that with "various levels of confidence" they believed there have been two uses of chemical weapons in Syria was not enough.
"And what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them; we don’t have chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened," Obama said. "And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts."
The international community might not support U.S. action in Syria if the administration rushes to judgment on chemical weapons, he said. Obama also pledged that he administration would do "everything we can" to continue to investigate several uses of chemical weapons in Syria and establish the facts. A U.N. investigative team has yet to enter Syria due to disputes with the Assad regime over access.
But Obama refused to say what actions his administration might take if and when the use of chemical weapons in Syria is confirmed to his satisfaction.
"By game changer, I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us," he said. "Obviously, there are options that are available to me that are on the shelf right now that we have not deployed, and that’s a spectrum of options… And I won’t go into the details of what those options might be, but you know, clearly, that would be an escalation, in our view, of the threat to the security of the international community, our allies and the United States. And that means that there’s some options that we might not otherwise exercise that we would — that we would strongly consider."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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