The White House has acknowledged that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons during the country’s ongoing civil war, but has cautioned that it still needs more evidence.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, speaking in the United Arab Emirates, said that such an action “violates every convention of warfare.”
The Associated Press says Hagel did not offer details on what can of weapons were used, how much chemical was involved or whether casualties resulted. But Secretary of State John Kerry was quoted by the AP as saying two attacks were thought to have taken place.
President Obama has described the use of chemical weapons as a “red line” and a “game changer,” suggesting that it could prompt the U.S. and perhaps other Western countries to intervene more directly in Syria’s civil war.
In letters sent to lawmakers Thursday, Miguel Rodriguez, White House director of the office of legislative affairs, echoed Hagel’s remarks, saying:
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin. This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts.”
“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making,” Rodriguez said in the letters sent to Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.).