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Syrian activists draw their own red line … in front of the White House

A group of Syrian activists extended a long, symbolic red line in front of the White House Sunday in a call for the Obama administration to respond aggressively to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons. The Syrian American Council, a U.S.-based group that supports the Syrian opposition, organized a series of events in ...

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A group of Syrian activists extended a long, symbolic red line in front of the White House Sunday in a call for the Obama administration to respond aggressively to the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons.

The Syrian American Council, a U.S.-based group that supports the Syrian opposition, organized a series of events in the Washington area over the weekend and coordinated the White House protest. The group's sign, directed at President Barack Obama, reads "Your credibility is on the line."

Obama gave no indication that his administration would change its calculus on whether or not to more aggressively support the armed Syrian opposition with lethal aid during his April 30 press conference. He did promise to continue to investigate what are now at least four instances of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, two of which the U.S. intelligence community has said it can confirm, albeit with various degrees of confidence and with questions about who might be the perpetrator.

A group of Syrian activists extended a long, symbolic red line in front of the White House Sunday in a call for the Obama administration to respond aggressively to the Syrian regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

The Syrian American Council, a U.S.-based group that supports the Syrian opposition, organized a series of events in the Washington area over the weekend and coordinated the White House protest. The group’s sign, directed at President Barack Obama, reads "Your credibility is on the line."

Obama gave no indication that his administration would change its calculus on whether or not to more aggressively support the armed Syrian opposition with lethal aid during his April 30 press conference. He did promise to continue to investigate what are now at least four instances of alleged chemical weapons use in Syria, two of which the U.S. intelligence community has said it can confirm, albeit with various degrees of confidence and with questions about who might be the perpetrator.

"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. ""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."

The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the administration is considering providing arms to the rebels but that a decision isn’t likely for several weeks, as Obama prepares to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in June. Secretary of State John Kerry is set to travel to Moscow soon.

National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that the administration is now discussing non-lethal military aid to the Syrian opposition, such as body armor and night-vision goggles, but no final decisions have been made on lethal assistance.

"As the president has said, our assistance to the Syrian opposition has been on an upward trajectory, and he has directed his national security team to identify additional measures so that we can continue to increase our assistance," she said. "We continue to consider all other possible options that would accomplish our objective of hastening a political transition, but have no new announcements at this time."

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 josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.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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