In his strongest words to date, US President Barack Obama said there would be “enormous consequences” if Syria’s chemical weapons come into play in the midst of the conflict-ridden country. In comments posted on the White House website, Obama told reporters, “We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons. That would change my calculations significantly.”
The Obama administration has been careful to repeat their disinterest in intervening militarily in Syria as NATO did in Libya. However, on Monday the US leader noted that he has not ordered military engagement in Syria “at this point.” While he stopped short of outright threatening military strikes to protect Syria’s chemical weapons, his “red line language” was a strong message.
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” said Obama. He further said the US has “a range of contingency plans,” without going into details.
When asked about his assurance that the weapons are still safe, Obama said, “In a situation this volatile, I wouldn’t say that I am absolutely confident.”
A Regional Concern
That’s a worrying prospect to multiple nations in the region, a point Obama himself addressed. “That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria; it concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us.”
Israel has been particularly outspoken on the matter, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refusing to rule out some sort of intervention to secure the weapons in an interview last month with Fox News.
“We certainly don’t want to be exposed to chemical weapons falling in the hands of Hezbollah or other terror groups, because that’s something we can’t be indifferent to,” said Netanyahu at the time. “It’s a great threat. We’ll have to consider our action… Do I seek action? No. Do I preclude it? No.”
Netanyahu made clear however that “we hope we don’t have to and we didn’t necessarily consider seizing those weapons. There are other possibilities.”
King Hussein of Jordan has also expressed concern in an interview with ABC News, but he did not sound open at this point to inviting military intervention in Syria.
Meanwhile, the US continued its international diplomacy on Syria. US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice was set to bring up the Syrian conflict during a trip to India, following conversations between US Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and officials in Russia and China.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 20, 2012)