White House Won’t Specify Its ‘Reaction’ to Syria Crossing a ‘Red Line’

Fred Lucas | May 6, 2013 | 5:18pm EDT
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White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – The White House is sticking to President Barack Obama’s assertion that Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons would be crossing a “red line,” but declined to say what would happen if he crossed that red line.

“What he never did, and it is simplistic to do, say if X happens then Y will happen,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday. “He [Obama] has never said what reaction he would take at a policy level to the proved crossing of the red line in Syria, simply that he would consider it a red line that had been crossed and that he would take appropriate action.”

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Over the weekend, Israel launched an air strike against Syria. Back in August 2012, Obama said, “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.”

Carney later said, “The use of chemical weapons by whomever is a red line. The proliferation, the transfer of chemical weapons is also a red line.”

Last week at a press conference, President Obama said it would be a “game changer” if the Syrians used the weapons, but also said the administration did not want to draw conclusions yet.

Assad’s regime has killed about 70,000 of its own people during the duration of the country’s civil war.

Carney was pressed on Monday as to whether Obama meant to say “red line.”

“There are international conventions that prevent the use of chemical weapons. There are international norms that are violated when chemical weapons are used,” Carney said. “It is by definition a game changer when the president talked as he did the other day about the fact that the use of chemical weapons enhances the prospect of proliferation of those weapons getting into the hands of terrorists or other non-state actors and that, by extension then, that creates further threats to the United States and our allies.”

“That is why it is such a significant event,” said Carney. “That is why it is a red line that the president made clear and said that from here and he reiterated on numerous occasions thereafter.”

Carney added, “As the investigation continues, as we have said all along, he [Obama] is looking toward a range of options. He is not removing any option from the table. He will take action he thinks is in the interest of the United States and our national security as well as in the interest of the Syrian people.”

Another reporter asked, “How is it a red line if it’s crossed and there’s nothing specific tied to it?”

Carney responded, “It was very clear, and we made clear, that we were concerned and our international partners were concerned that Assad, as he became more and more beleaguered, would resort to the use of chemical weapons. It was essential that we made clear, both in private communications to the Assad regime as well as in public, how seriously we would view the use of chemical weapons. And that is what the president did. And we are now in the process of gathering the facts, not rushing to a conclusion.”

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