Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Blog
Today, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a statement following new reports alleging that the Assad regime used chemical weapons near Damascus. Syrian opposition groups and activists claim that as many as 1,200 civilians, many of whom are children, have been killed, but the death toll cannot be confirmed. The Administration has requested that the UN investigate the matter.
If confirmed, today's reports would constitute yet another crossing of the "red line" set by the President a year ago. The Obama Administration has accused the Assad regime of using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians before, including as recently as two months ago when the Administration announced that it would arm certain elements in the Syrian opposition. At that time, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications issued a statement asserting "following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin."
Since then, Congress has put the brakes on sending weapons to Syria citing concerns that they could fall into the hands of extremist elements. If these allegations of further use of chemical weapons by the regime are confirmed, it is still unclear whether the White House will reexamine its "calculus" of the situation yet again and call for some sort of military intervention in Syria.
The United States is deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of Syrian civilians have been killed in an attack by Syrian government forces, including by the use of chemical weapons, near Damascus earlier today. We are working urgently to gather additional information.
The United States strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. Today, we are formally requesting that the United Nations urgently investigate this new allegation. The UN investigative team, which is currently in Syria, is prepared to do so, and that is consistent with its purpose and mandate. For the UN’s efforts to be credible, they must have immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals, and have the ability to examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation from the Syrian government. If the Syrian government has nothing to hide and is truly committed to an impartial and credible investigation of chemical weapons use in Syria, it will facilitate the UN team’s immediate and unfettered access to this site. We have also called for urgent consultations in the UN Security Council to discuss these allegations and to call for the Syrian government to provide immediate access to the UN investigative team. The United States urges all Syrian parties including the government and opposition, to provide immediate access to any and all sites of importance to the investigation and to ensure security for the UN investigative team.
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