SYRIA HAS USED CHEMICAL WEAPONS, DEFENSE SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL SAYS – CALLS FOR U.S. INTERVENTION IN SYRIA

Washington Times on April 25, 2013, published an AP report on Secretary Chuck Hagel saying that the Syrian regime has likely used chemical weapons on a “small scale.” Excerpts below:

Hagel was speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi.

He says the White House has informed members of Congress that, within the last day, U.S. intelligence concluded with “some degree of varying confidence” that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons — specifically sarin gas.

Fox News reported on April 26, 2013, that the White House said that more evidence is necessary to confirm the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people, but if that proves to be true, it would be a “game changer.”

Much talk has been made of Obama’s suggestion that the use of deadly chemical agents could be the “red line” for the U.S.to intervene in the two-year-old Syrian war.

“I think that in many ways a line’s been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people killed by a regime, but the use of chemical weapons and the danger that is poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential of 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,” Obama told reporters.

…White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the U.S. continues to investigate evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its fight against rebels, but he resisted setting a timetable for possible action.

Top-ranking lawmakers on both sides of the aisle declared on April 25 that the “red line” in Syria had been crossed, calling for “strong” U.S. and international intervention after administration officials revealed that the intelligence community thinks chemical weapons were used.

Senator John McCain, who has long called for more involvement in Syria, voiced concern that the administration would use “caveats” to avoid acting on the new intelligence. He said America’s enemies are paying “close attention” to whether the U.S. follows through, as the White House signaled it wanted to see more proof before responding to the new information.

“I worry that the president and the administration will use these caveats as an excuse not to act right away or act at all,” McCain told Fox News. “The president clearly stated that it was a red line and that it couldn’t be crossed without the United States taking vigorous action.”

He called for the U.S. to help establish a no-fly zone and “safe zone” in Syria, as well as provide weapons to the “right people.”

Secretary of State John Kerry further confirmed that there were two documented instances of chemical weapons use.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News the Defense Department has been preparing a wide range of contingency plans for military involvement in Syria for the past year. President Obama has seen the plans and is fully aware of those options.

The options, according to this official, range from establishing no-fly zones to creating humanitarian zones to launching strikes on chemical weapons sites, select regime leadership and other targets. The official emphasized that no decisions have been made about whether to further involve the U.S. military in Syria and that there are still many questions that need to be answered first.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., also said in a statement the assessment is “deeply troubling and, if correct, means that President Obama’s red line has certainly been crossed.”

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