Add Israel to the growing list of US allies condemning the Assad regime in no uncertain terms over its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Israeli General Itai Brun, the IDF’s commander of the research division in the intelligence directorate, says “it is quite clear that they used harmful chemical weapons.” He cited as evidence pictures of victims with “shrunken pupils, foaming at the mouth and other signs” which indicate the use of a weaponized chemical agent, probably sarin. And he even alleged that the use of the weapons has been “continuous” since the widely alleged attack of March 19.
The other allies leading the charge against Assad? France and the UK:
Last Friday, senior diplomats and officials said Britain and France informed the United Nations that there was credible evidence that Syria had used chemical weapons on more than one occasion since December. The two European countries cited soil samples, witness interviews and opposition sources to support the charges.
Awkwardly enough, the general’s remarks came at the very end of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s visit to Israel. When pressed by journalists, Hagel was circumspect. “Currently our intelligence agencies are assessing what happened and what did not happen,” he said, refusing to speculate further.
The New York Times succinctly summarizes the corner the Obama administration is increasingly finding itself backed into:
If American officials have been more reluctant than their allies to come to firm conclusions, it may be because it would force Mr. Obama’s hand. In August, the president told reporters that any evidence that Mr. Assad was moving the weapons or making use of them could prompt the United States to act.
“That would change my calculus,” he said. “That would change my equation.”
But when strong evidence emerged earlier this year that Mr. Assad’s forces were in fact moving their weapons—at least from one depot to another—the White House insisted that the action did not cross the line that Mr. Obama set. By “move” the weapons, a White House spokesman said, Mr. Obama meant transferring them to a terror group, like Hezbollah. He said there was no evidence of that.
The legalistic wrangling over the exact definition of “move” was not the administration’s finest hour. But given the strong stance that three very prominent US allies are taking on the issue, it may be moot. It’s hard to imagine how the President could parse his way out of his previous “red line” talk if evidence continues to emerge that Assad is gassing his own people. Obama’s room for maneuver over Syria is shrinking fast.