President Obama faces a new quandary from a pair of assertive allies, France and Britain, that suggest his stated “red line” for more forceful U.S. action in the Syrian civil war has been crossed with solid evidence of chemical weapons use by the Assad regime.
Mindful of America’s own checkered intelligence record, U.S. officials insist they still lack incontrovertible proof that Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered the use of chemical weapons. Even after France’s declaration that it has “no doubt” about Assadhand in at least one chemical attack, the Obama administration isn’t talking about intervening in Syria’s 27-month conflict that has drawn in Hizbullah and al-Qaida-linked terrorists on opposing sides.
The administration fears plunging the United States into an Iraq-like calamity based on misleading or incomplete evidence — or getting involved militarily at all.
“Make no mistake whatsoever, the president’s red line is real, the president said it would be a game changer,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Guatemala on Wednesday, adding that France was sending its chemical weapons evidence to the U.S. for review. “The president has a whole set of options on the table and all of them are alive.”
For the United States, the stakes are high. Since Obama declared last summer that Assad’s use of chemical weapons or transfer to extremist groups such as Hizbullah would constitute a “red line” that would have “extraordinary consequences,” the United States has left open the possibility of all actions short of American military boots on the ground.