Syria, Obama And The Red Line
Has Syria Crossed A Red Line And How Will The US Respond?
President Obama created a dilemma for his administration when he drew a “red line” in the sand when he declared on six different occasions that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would dramatically change the calculus of the war.
Having drawn that line, the administration is now faced with a decision on what to do next – and that might have been Assad’s intention all along.
“The Syrian regime has hesitated to deploy any of its large stock of chemical weapons because of Barack Obama’s warning that doing so would cross a red line—and would not be tolerated. But Mr. Assad, sensing that intervention in Syria’s civil war is the last thing the administration wants, may have decided to test Mr. Obama with the low-level use of such weapons,” posits the editorial board of The Economist.
Adopting Cautious Tone, White House Tries To Buy Time
In response to the growing evidence of the use of sarin gas, the White House has adopted a cautious stance restating Obama’s red line statement, but with several caveats.
“We go on to reaffirm that the President has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that is not acceptable to us, nor should it be to the international community. It’s precisely because we take this red line so seriously that we believe there is an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria,” a White House official stated in a background briefing.
US Left With Range Of Bad Options
Jeffrey Goldberg of Bloomberg News contends that if the evidence is confirmed, the US may have no option but to act.
“There are no good choices — good outcomes in Syria are impossible to imagine. But if it is proved to a certainty that Assad is trying to kill his people with chemical weapons, then Obama may have no choice but to act, not only because he has put the country’s credibility on the line (Iran and North Korea are undoubtedly watching closely), but also because the alternative — allowing human beings to be murdered by a monstrous regime using the world’s most devilish weapons, when he has the power to stop it — is not a moral option for a moral man,” Goldberg concedes.
What Does Syria Intend To Do With Its Sarin Stockpiles?
The other question which policymakers will consider is what Syria could and would do with its sarin gas stockpiles.
James Lewis of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation tells Foreign Policy magazine that historically sarin has been used as a weapon of terror, rather than a weapon to gain military advantage.
“Strategically, they are not particularly useful in urban warfare. The real value is as a weapon of terror,” he says.
North Korea Rejects Another Offer From The South
After North Korea rejected its latest offer, South Korean officials have called back all of its remaining citizens working at the Kaesong industrial complex, which is located in the North and has been idle since February.
South Korea had set a Friday noon deadline for Pyongyang to respond to its demands for talks over its future, but opted to withdraw the nearly 200 South Koreans employed there after North Korea rebuffed their offer.
South Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye said the prolonged suspension, due to North Korea’s action, is placing undue burdens on the workers, who have not received supplies of food and materials since April 3.