Alleged Chemical Attack In Syria, Aug. 21, 2013

August 22, 2013 by  

Alleged Chemical Attack In Syria, Aug. 21, 2013, Almost exactly one year after Barack Obama declared that the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” that would shift his thinking about that country’s bloody civil war, the White House found itself responding – again – to reports of just such an event. This one, Syrian opposition groups say, killed between 500 and 1,300 people.

For now, however, the White House isn’t exactly springing into action. “We are calling for this U.N. investigation to be conducted,” said Obama spokesman Josh Earnest on Wednesday. “This is a situation that is ongoing, and our efforts to work with the international community and to work with the Syrian opposition to remove [President Bashar] Assad from power are ongoing.” Earnest upgraded his rhetoric slightly Thursday morning, telling reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Buffalo where the President was scheduled to give a speech about making college more affordable, that the images out of Syria “are nothing short of horrifying.”

Still, the translation amounts to: Don’t hold your breath waiting for air strikes.

The muted U.S. response fuels a sense that, despite the President’s stern words, the red line was never as clear as it seemed. Indeed, some analysts believe Obama modified his position in April, when he said the “systematic” use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer” for his Syrian policy, which critics call too passive.

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