The PJ Tatler

Hagel at NATO: All I Know About Syrian Sarin Is What I Read in the Paper

Administration officials have recently deflected questions about various scandals by claiming they had no knowledge of the questions or only knew what they read in the paper.

Today, the secretary of Defense claimed he didn’t know anything about British and French evidence presented to the UN proving that sarin had been used in government attacks — that infamous “red line” of chemical weapons which, when crossed, was promised to be the point of action by President Obama.

“On France’s behalf, I handed him the results of the analyses carried out by our laboratory, chosen by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to identify military toxins,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said yesterday. “These analyses demonstrate the presence of sarin gas in the samples in our possession. In view of this evidence, France is now certain that sarin gas has been used in Syria several times and in a localised manner. We decided to inform the relevant UN mission of the evidence in our possession, immediately and publicly. It would be intolerable for those guilty of these crimes to enjoy impunity.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with reporters today from Brussels after a day and a half of “a productive series of meetings” with allies at NATO headquarters. One of those meetings was with the French.

“I met with the French minister, as well as other NATO ministers. And as I said, many of these issues were discussed on specific terms, answering your question. No, the French minister did not request anything specific from the United States,” Hagel said in response to a question about support for the Syrian opposition and the chemical weapons tests.

“As to your reference to the announcement on use of chemical weapons, I’ve not seen that evidence that they said that they — they have. I’ve not talked to any of our intelligence people about it, so beyond what I read actually in the paper and the reference the minister made to it, I don’t know anything more than that,” Hagel continued.

“On Syria itself, NATO’s responsibility, I think, has been evidenced in the last day-and-a-half. But as you know, even before this ministerial, our focus is on protecting our members and what we are doing to assure the defenses of Turkey and assist our NATO member, Turkey. But beyond that, we didn’t get into any additional war plans regarding Syria.”

However, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters at yesterday’s daily briefing that “we have worked very closely with the French, as well as other allies, as well as the Syrian opposition, to build on the information that we had developed about the likely use of chemical weapons in Syria.”

“And we continue to work with the French and the British and others, and the Syrian opposition to do that. I would note that the French report that you’re citing says that more work needs to be done to establish who was responsible for the use and the amount that was used and more details about the circumstances around it,” Carney added.

“I don’t have a timetable for you, but we are working very assiduously on this issue with our allies, with the Syrian opposition,” he said of the red line.

Obama was asked by a reporter today if he had any comment on Syria. “Thanks, guys,” he responded before walking out.