Updated 7:42 pm ET
U.S. officials said this afternoon that the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad did indeed use chemical weapons, crossing the “red line” established last year by President Obama.
The declaration suggests some type of U.S. response will be in order, though it’s not clear at this point exactly what that will be. But it will include some kind of military support for the rebels.
“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,” National Security spokesman Ben Rhodes told reporters.
The White House, which has resisted entreaties from other parts of the administration for a strong response, is now under increasing pressure not only from outside parties like Sen. John McCain and Bill Clinton, who have come out in favor of a robust response, but from the fact that Obama would seem feckless were he not to make good on his own threat.
In a statement today, Rhodes reiterated the “red line” formulation:
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, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has.
Obama’s senior advisers met Wednesday on Syria while the president was out fundraising, but it does not appear they reached any conclusions about what to do.