By STEVE CHAGGARIS, STEPHANIE CONDON
The Obama administration has concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad‘s government used chemical weapons against the rebels seeking to overthrow him and, in a major policy shift, President Obama has decided to supply military support to the rebels, the White House announced Thursday.
“The president has made a decision about providing more support to the opposition that will involve providing direct support to the [Supreme Military Council]. That includes military support,” Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes told reporters.
President Obama has repeatedly said that the use of chemical weapons is a “red line” that, if crossed, would be a “game changer” for more U.S. involvement in the Syrian civil war.
“The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States,” said Rhodes in a separate written statement.
“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” he continued.
In terms of further response, Rhodes said, “we will make decisions on our own timeline” and that Congress and the international community would be consulted. Mr. Obama is heading to Northern Ireland Sunday for a meeting of the G8 group of nations; Rhodes indicated the president will consult with leaders of those countries.
“Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity,” Rhodes said.
To date, the U.S. policy on Syria has primarily focused on offering the rebels nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.
PLAY AUDIO FOR INFO ON NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT AIRING ON PBS MAY 26
ELIZABETH PALMER /
CBS NEWS/ May 13, 2013, 2:31 AM
ISLAMABAD – Pakistanis were mesmerized last week by the spectacle of candidate Imran Khan toppling backwards off a fork-lift at a campaign rally just days before national parliamentary elections.
Grainy pictures of the fall and Khan’s emotional appeal to his supporters later — wearing a neck brace in a hospital bed — elbowed other news stories aside.
In ordinary circumstances, one story in particular would have grabbed much bigger headlines last week.
On Thursday, Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ruled that U.S. drone strikes on Pakistani territory are illegal, inhumane and a violation of the United Nations charter on human rights.
- Pakistan’s Sharif headed for 3rd term as PM
- Pakistan candidate pins hopes on anti-U.S. stance
- CIA drone secrecy ruling nixed by appeals court
Updated 11:32 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Israel launched an airstrike into Syria, apparently targeting a suspected weapons site, U.S. officials said Friday night.
CBS News correspondent David Martin confirmed that the Israelis did hit a warehouse in Syria. U.S. sources at this point don’t know what was in the target warehouse. It’s also not known whether the Israelis actually entered Syrian airspace to accomplish this, or simply fired their missiles from Israeli airspace.
The strike occurred overnight Thursday into Friday, the officials told The Associated Press. It did not appear that a chemical weapons site was targeted, they said, and one official said the strike appeared to have hit a warehouse.
The U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
- Israel: Syria used chemical weapons, several times
- Israeli focus on Syria gives Hagel respite on Iran
Israel has targeted weapons in the past that it believes are being delivered to the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. Earlier this week, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said his group would assist Syrian President Bashar Assad if needed in the effort to put down a 2-year-old uprising. [QUOTE]