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The Battle for Syria

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A Line Has Been Crossed

April 26th 2013

Professor Obama at work

President Obama on Friday said "a line has been crossed” in Syria but cautioned that more “direct evidence” is needed to confirm a chemical weapons attack. Speaking alongside King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office, Obama said that the United States was working with countries like Jordan to obtain more evidence and confirmation of a potential chemical attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces.

"To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws. ... That's going to be a game changer," Obama said. Obama did not say whether his “red line” regarding chemical weapons use had been crossed by the Assad regime, but he said “a line had been crossed” when tens of thousands of Syrians had been killed by government forces in the two-year conflict. "Knowing that there's chemical weapons in Syria doesn't tell us when they were used or how they were used,” he said. “We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this.”

White House officials have said that no decisions are being made about the next steps the Obama administration would take in Syria until evidence of a chemical attack is corroborated. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that the administration’s case is not yet “airtight.”

The news of chemical weapons use has sparked lawmakers in both parties, however, to call for additional steps, including arming of vetted rebels groups and creating a no-fly zone. Obama said Friday that the situation in Syria is a “long-term proposition,” and not something that will be solved easily overnight.

"For the Syrian government to use chemical weapons on its people will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues,” Obama said. “So this is not an on or off switch.” Obama first said in August 2012 that the use or movement of chemical weapons in Syria was a "red line."

"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized," he said at a press conference at that time. "That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."

Secretary of State John Kerry was among those in the Oval Office on Friday with Obama and the Jordanian king, according to the pool report. Abdullah mentioned last week’s Boston attacks and told Obama they had to work together to fight terrorism.

"I'm confident that with your leadership we can find a solution to end this as quickly as possible," he told the presidenet of the 60,000 refugees coming from Syrian into Jordan.

Jeremy Herb writes for The Hill, from where this article is adapted.


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