William Katz:  Urgent Agenda






THE RED LINE IN SYRIA – AT 9:42 A.M. ET:  Has Syria crossed an Obama "red line" in its battle with rebels?  And if so, does it really matter?

Silvio Canto Jr alerts us to report in Atlantic Wire, in turn quoting the very reliable Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy magazine:

In a leak that could signal a crossing of President Obama's "red line" on the increasingly deadly conflict in Syria, the State Department has investigated and concluded that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military forces used poison gas in a deadly attack on the city of Homs last month, Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin reported Tuesday evening. Rogin, whose State sources are rarely questioned on the Foggy Bottom beat, got his his scoop from classified department cables:

The cable, signed by the U.S. consul general in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner, and sent to State Department headquarters in Washington last week, outlined the results of the consulate's investigation into reports from inside Syria that chemical weapons had been used in the city of Homs on Dec. 23.
An Obama administration official who reviewed the document, which was classified at the "secret" level, detailed its contents to The Cable. "We can't definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23," the official said.

And what is Washington's reaction to the story?  Why, it's nothing, absolutely nothing.  From Reuters:

The United States on Tuesday poured cold water on a media report that chemical weapons had been used in the Syrian conflict, but reiterated that if Syrian President Bashar Assad's government did resort to these weapons, it would be held to account.

"The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program," White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement.

Wha?  What does that actually say?  Nothing, really. 

We don't know where the truth lies, but we believe Rogin's reporting that American diplomats in the region accept that a compelling case has been made that Assad used chemical weapons.  With 60,000 already dead in Syria, and the administration almost indifferent, our lethargic reply is understandable, if outrageous.

And the incoming secretary of state, John Kerry, is a man who, not long ago, announced that Assad was a reformer.  Are you encouraged by the direction of our foreign policy?

January 16, 2013