President Barack Obama said Friday that reports of Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons will be a “game changer” that will affect his administration’s response to the country’s two-year civil war.
“To use weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line in terms of international norms and laws,” Obama told reporters in the Oval Office, according to a White House pool report.
“That’s going to be a game changer.”
Answering an unscheduled question from a reporter about the state of the weapons of mass destruction reported to have been used in Syria, Obama suggested that the White House still has little understanding of how the weapons were used by President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
“Knowing that there’s chemical weapons in Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used or how they were used. We ourselves will be putting a lot of resources on this,” he said, according to the pool report. “A line has been crossed when we are seeing tens of thousands killed by the regime.”
“For the Syrian Government to use chemical weapons on its people will change my calculus,” Obama added. “This is not an on and off switch, it’s an on going challenge that all of us have to work with.”
Earlier Friday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that the Obama administration is continuing to look at evidence to corroborate reports that the Syrian government used sarin gas against the opposition.
“We are continuing to work to build on the assessments made by the intelligence community, that the degrees of confidence here are varying, that this is not an airtight case,” Carney told reporters.
In a letter to U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) Thursday, defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said that the administration has evidence of “small scale” use of sarin gas in Syria.
Obama has previously warned that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would cross a “red line,” although it is not clear what options the U.S. has for involvement in the conflict.
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