After members of his administration said the “red line” for Syria and chemical weapons had most likely been crossed, President Obama had to face the cameras to explain his red-line wavering before a meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah today.
“What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community,” Obama said.
The White House has said it wants the UN to launch its own investigation and rely on those findings.
“And I think that, in many ways, a line has been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime. But the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential for chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists — all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region,” he said.
The death toll is estimated to be more than 70,000.
“So we’re going to be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use. In the meantime, I’ve been very clear publicly, but also privately, that for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues,” Obama continued.
“So this is not an on or off switch. This is an ongoing challenge that all of us have to be concerned about. And we’re going to be working with the international community and our partners to keep our eyes on what’s happening on the ground, to gather any evidence of potential chemical weapon use and, at the same time, to continue to help with a moderate and inclusive opposition to help bring about the day when the Syrian people can once again focus on living their lives, raising their children, starting businesses, and obtaining basic freedom and human rights.”