The United States and its allies have concluded that the government of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in Syria’s protracted civil war, leading President Barack Obama to broaden aid — including military support — to opposition groups.
The intelligence community concluded with “high confidence” that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons — including the nerve agent sarin — “on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”
“The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete,” said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.
The use of chemical weapons crosses the so-called “red line” first established by Obama last year, which he said would prompt the administration to alter its posture. The administration said on Thursday that Obama had decided to broaden support to the Supreme Military Council, a principal opposition group in Syria, and Rhodes said that assistance “will include military support.”
Rhodes declined to specify what kind of military support the United States would provide to the SMC, but noted that Obama had not decided to establish a no-fly zone, as some Republicans have demanded.