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Obama left red-faced over red line

By David Singer - posted Monday, 9 September 2013

President Obama has tripped over his own red line - leaving the prestige and authority of his office and America's reputation in tatters.

The President's statement last year on the possible use of chemical weapons - supposedly then awash in Syria whilst a civil war had been raging for eighteen months between the Assad regime and a rebel group comprising Syrian civilians, deserting Syrian soldiers and foreign insurgents - was spot on:

A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.


No mention was made by President Obama of the need to identify who was utilizing such weapons.

"Utilized" was the operative word - not "utilizer"

That red line appears to have been definitely crossed on 21 August 2013 with a claimed chemical warfare attack using sarin causing more than 1429 confirmed deaths - including 426 children.

USA Today reported on 23 August:

Syria's chemical weapons program stretches back decades, allowing the country to amass a supply of nerve and blister agents capable of being mounted on long-range missiles that could reach neighboring countries, according to government and independent analysts.

Its program stretches back to the 1970s or '80s - experts disagree on the precise time - as a means of developing a deterrent against Israel's presumed nuclear capabilities, according to analysts and a Congressional Research Service report.


... Syria has stocks of sarin and VX, which attacks the nervous system, and mustard gas, which burns the skin, according to the Defense Intelligence Agency.

... Syria has generally denied having any chemical weapons, but a spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry, Jihad Maqdisi, said last year that Syria would never use chemical weapons and they were secured.

... Syria is one of a handful of nations that the United States says is pursuing an active chemical weapons program, along with Iran and North Korea.

... Syria has not signed the Chemical Weapons Convention, which was ratified by the United States in 1997. It is an international agreement banning the production of chemical weapons and calling for the destruction of stockpiles.

Syria's stockpile of any such suspected chemicals cache could have been accessed by the rebel forces during the long running conflict or additional supplies procured by them from other sources.

But did it matter who used chemicals on 21 August? Wasn't there real urgency now to ensure they could never be used again in this conflict?

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About the Author

David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at

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