The White House confirmed Thursday that the intelligence community believes the Assad regime in Syria has used chemical weapons “on a small scale.” In letters to Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ), the administration reiterated that chemical weapons constitute a “red line” for the United States and that all options are on the table in determining next steps.
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin,” Miguel Rodriguez, director of the Office of Legislative Affairs, wrote in the letter. “This assessment is based in part on physiological samples. Our standard of evidence must build on these intelligence assessments as we seek to establish credible and corroborated facts. For example, the chain of custody is not clear, so we cannot confirm how the exposure occurred and under what conditions. We do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. Thus far, we believe that the Assad regime maintains custody of these weapons, and has demonstrated a willingness to escape its horrific use of violence against the Syrian people.”
The letter says that among the next steps being taken, the administration is pushing for a United Nations investigation into what happened.
“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making, and strengthen our leadership of the international community,” the letter read.