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.That would change my equation.
In a routine worthy of Bugs Bunny, the Obama administration has been alternatively threatening -- and extending -- warnings of red lines to the Assad regime in Syria.
The White House's threats to react to Assad's WMD activity have softened over time. In Obama's Aug. 20 statement, he indicated that "a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around" would trigger U.S.
Obama then shifted his warning to Assad about red lines in December, after intelligence reports stated that the Syrian regime had moved some precursor chemicals out of storage and mixed them, making them easier to deploy. Now, Obama's red line is that the United States will react if Syria uses these weapons.
"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable," Obama said Dec. 3, directing his comments at Assad. "If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable." That same day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added: "we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur."
Outside analysts worry that the
administration's red line may have shifted again. "Given the fact you have that in a cable, this indicates that the Obama administration may not simply jump into the conflict because chemical agents are used," said Andrew Tabler, senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "Assad has a much better idea now of what he can do and get away with."
Some say Obama's pick of Hagel as Secretary of Defense may be considered a signal to Iran of Obama's lack of seriousness in preventing them from acquiring nuclear weapons.
If so, surely Obama's inability to back up its threats to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons in the continued slaughter of civilians -- sends Iran a message as well.
It is the message that US allies in the Middle East learned during Obama's first term: the US is not to be relied upon.