The PJ Tatler

Syria: The Thin Red Line[s]

President Obama deployed the teflon protocol yesterday. He said, “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line…my credibility’s not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’ credibility’s on the line.”  Mr. President, you’re lying.  Your red line for Syria has been mentioned in press briefings by Jay Carney – and it’s on your website. You can’t hide your egregiously overt attempt to isolate yourself from a potential disaster in Syria.  Also, when you mention America in your statement, that means you, sir!


So, let’s go down memory lane, and remember the various red lines Obama set for Syria before he figured out that his toothless foreign policy is the epitome of ineffectual.

In August 2012, Obama Said That The Use Or Movement Of Chemical Weapons In Syria Would Be A “Red Line” That Would “Change My Calculus.” OBAMA: “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks To The White House Press Corps, Washington, DC, 8/20/12)

Obama: “That’s A Red Line For Us And That There Would Be Enormous Consequences If We Start Seeing Movement On The Chemical Weapons…” “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.  That would change my calculations significantly.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks To The White House Press Corps, Washington, DC, 8/20/12)

Jay Carney, In May 2013: “The President’s Use Of The Term Red Line Was Deliberate And Was Based On U.S. Policy.”QUESTION: “When the President made his comment about the red line for the first time in an August news conference almost a year ago, did he go further than he had intended?  Further than he and the staff had discussed?” CARNEY:  “The President’s use of the term red line was deliberate and was based on U.S. policy.  The world knew that the Syrian government possessed chemical weapons, and we had a concern that as the regime was increasingly beleaguered, it might use chemical weapons against the Syrian people in desperation.  The message that the President delivered that day was the same message that he was delivering in private.  It was one that he and others in the administration have reinforced on multiple occasions ever since.  And, as I said, it was consistent with what we were saying both to the Assad regime and to others privately.” (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 5/6/13)

Carney, On If The White House Was “Doubling Down On The Red Line Comment”: “What The President Made Clear Is That It Was A Red Line And That It Was Unacceptable…” QUESTION: “So you’re doubling down on the red line comment.  Is there no concern that by doing this you’re raising expectations for some kind of action?  Because you’re now being criticized for not acting.” CARNEY:  “Well, what the President made clear is that it was a red line and that it was unacceptable and that it would change his calculus as he viewed the situation in Syria because the use of chemical weapons represents the kind of escalation and threat that I just described.” (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 5/6/13)

Carney, In April 2013: “The President Has Made Clear … That The Use Of Chemical Weapons Or The Transfer Of Chemical Weapons To Terrorist Groups Would Cross A Red Line.” QUESTION: “Jay, on Syria, where exactly is that red line?” CARNEY:  “The President has made clear, as he did again Friday, that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups would cross a red line. What we have made clear, and we can go over it again, is that we have established with varying degrees of confidence that there have been incidents of chemical weapons used, sarin, in particular, in a limited fashion in Syria.  We are now working to build upon that evidence to increase the amount of evidence to find specifically what happened, what occurred, who was responsible and build that case, if you will.” (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 4/29/13)

Carney, In April 2013: “We Have Made Clear, As The President Did I Believe From This Podium, That The Use Or Proliferation Of Chemical Weapons Is A Red Line As Far As He’s Concerned When It Comes To The Syrian Regime.” QUESTION: “Quick related question on that.  DNI Clapper was on the Hill today, and in some important testimony he said directly that if Assad falls, he said, it’s a ‘tough call whether or not the chemical weapons stockpile can be secured.’  How worried are you about that?  It sounds like a pretty dramatic statement from the DNI.” MR. CARNEY:  “Well, there’s no question, as we’ve stated all along, that the disposition of chemical weapons in Syria is a matter of concern to the United States and our allies and partners — a matter of great concern obviously to countries in the region.  And we have made clear, as the President did I believe from this podium, that the use or proliferation of chemical weapons is a red line as far as he’s concerned when it comes to the Syrian regime.” (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 4/11/13)

Carney, In December 2012: “On The Issue Of Syria’s Chemical Weapons, We Have Been — And The President Has Been — Exceedingly Clear About The Red Line That You Mentioned.” CARNEY: “We have worked with our international partners to help the Syrian opposition form itself and to take steps to prepare for a post-Assad Syria in which there is a government that reflects the will and wishes of the Syrian people, and respects the liberties of the Syrian people. The fact of the matter is that Assad’s brutality has earned him a dismal place in history, and we continue to work with our partners to help hasten the day when that regime is no longer in any control of any part of Syria.  In the meantime, on the issue of Syria’s chemical weapons, we have been — and the President has been — exceedingly clear about the red line that you mentioned.  And we continue to make clear that, if the Assad regime were to use chemical weapons in response to the fact that the opposition has been making gains and that their brutal crackdown has not worked, or if they were to engage in proliferation, there will be consequences.  And this is a grave matter, and one that the President takes very seriously as do our many international partners on this issue.” (Jay Carney, White House Press Briefing, 12/4/12)

White House Official, In April 2013: “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…” WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL: “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.” (White House,Background Conference Call On Syria, 4/25/13)

White House Official: “The President Means What He Says When He Set That Red Line.  And Keep In Mind, He Is The One Who Laid Down That Marker.” OFFICIAL: “But I think nobody should have any mistake about what our red line is.  It is when we firmly establish that there has been chemical weapons use within Syria, that is not acceptable to the United States, nor is the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations.  And the people in Syria and the Assad regime should know that the President means what he says when he set that red line.  And keep in mind, he is the one who laid down that marker.  He’s the one who directed that we provide this information to the public.  And he’s the one who directed that we do everything we can to further investigate this information so that we can establish in credible, corroborated, factual basis what exactly took place.” (White House, Background Conference Call On Syria, 4/25/13)


Does this mean we should attack Syria?  No! But it does show that the president’s rhetoric isn’t always successful in charming dictators.

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