The Obama administration stressed anew Monday that it wouldn’t accept any use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, but didn’t say if it had any new evidence to suggest a possible deployment of the stockpiles by the embattled Syrian government.
Speaking in Prague, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated President Barack Obama’s declaration that Syrian action on chemical weapons was a “red line” for the United States that would prompt action. She didn’t address news reports suggesting fresh activity at Syrian chemical weapons depots, but insisted that Washington would address any threat that arises.
“We have made our views very clear: This is a red line for the United States,” Clinton told reporters. “I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”
Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads.
Its arsenal is a particular threat to American allies Turkey and Israel, and Obama singled out the threat posed by the unconventional weapons earlier this year as a potential cause for deeper US involvement in Syria’s civil war. Up to now, the United States has opposed military intervention or providing arms support to Syria’s rebels for fear of further militarizing a conflict that activists say has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011.
Clinton said that while the actions of President Bashar Assad’s government have been deplorable, chemical weapons would bring them to a new level.
“We once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that their behavior is reprehensible, their actions against their own people have been tragic,” she said. “But there is no doubt that there’s a line between even the horrors that they’ve already inflicted on the Syrian people and moving to what would be an internationally condemned step of utilizing their chemical weapons.”
Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that unusual activity at chemical weapons’ depots suggested that the Syrian regime may be mulling the deployment of its non-conventional weapons. There are fears that the Assad government, which maintains a tentative hold on power in the civil war-ravaged country, may use its chemical arsenal in a last ditch attempt to thwart rebel forces. However, there were no signs yet of chemical weapons being made ready for war, the report said.