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Jeffrey Goldberg

Does Anybody Care If Assad Uses Chemical Weapons Again?

Blog item on Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons

It was a year ago, almost to the day, that President Barack Obama warned the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, not to deploy chemical weapons in his fight to stay in power. "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," Obama said. "That would change my equation." He went on: "We're monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans." Earlier, the president had said that Assad would be "held accountable by the international community" if he made the "tragic mistake" of using these weapons.

As we know now, Assad did use these weapons, on repeated occasions, in small-scale attacks. The administration's response to these confirmed reports of chemical weapons use came in June, when it authorized the transfer of small arms to the rebels, small arms the administration acknowledged would not tip the rebellion toward success.