Clinton: U.S. Will Act if Syria Uses Chemical Weapons

From Washington Post

By Anne Gearan

The United States will not tolerate any use of chemical weapons in Syria and will act quickly if that threat appears imminent, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday.

“This is a red line for the United States,” Clinton said. “I’m not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action.”

Clinton did not directly address new reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be moving chemical weapons or making other possible preparations to use his known stockpile. But the Associated Press, citing an unnamed U.S. defense official, reported that international “intelligence sources” have detected signs in recent days that Syria has been moving chemical weapons components to new locations.

The official, who according to AP spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters, said officials don’t believe any developments with the weapons are imminent but are trying to figure out what the Syrians are doing. Intense fighting was reported Sunday on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, with government forces bombarding rebel strongholds.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry strongly denied that the military would resort to chemical weapons, news services reported. “Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people,” the ministry said.

Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads. Its arsenal is a particular threat to American allies Turkey and Israel.

Clinton spoke Monday in the Czech Republic, which is acting as the United States’ diplomatic agent in Syria since the U.S. Embassy there was shuttered. Her statement echoed one made in August by President Obama, who declared that Assad’s deployment or use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for U.S. intervention in the Syrian civil war.

The Obama administration has never publicly spelled out how it would respond, but one option is an airstrike to destroy weapons before they could be used.

“There is no doubt there is a line between even the horrors they have already inflicted” on civilians, and the use of chemical weapons, Clinton said Monday.

NATO is expected to approve new missile defenses for Turkey at a meeting Tuesday, but a U.S. official traveling with Clinton said there are no plans to broaden that defense to include a no-fly zone or other more assertive military measures in Syria.

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