In an interview with PBS NewsHour on Wednesday, President Obama said the U.S. had “concluded” that the regime of Bashar Assad used chemical weapons during an attack last week near Damascus that reportedly left hundreds dead and potentially thousands more injured.
“We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons on – or chemical weapons of that sort,” Obama said. “We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences.”
The U.S. had previously hedged, saying there was little doubt that the Assad regime perpetrated the attack. This means the U.S. is more comfortable with its assessment.
Obama added that he had not made a decision on whether the United States would launch a military attack on Syria.
“We’re consulting with the international community,” Obama said. “And you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable.”
Obama said he had also concluded that direct military engagement in the more than 2-year-old civil war in Syria, “would not help the situation on the ground.”
Obama was asked what a limited military strike would accomplish, then.
“Again, I have not made a decision, but I think it’s important that if, in fact, we make a choice to have repercussions for the use of chemical weapons, then the Assad regime, which is involved in a civil war, trying to protect itself, will have received a pretty strong signal, that in fact, it better not do it again,” Obama said. “And that doesn’t solve all the problems inside of Syria, and, you know, it doesn’t, obviously end the death of innocent civilians inside of Syria.”
Update at 6:30 p.m. ET. The Last Incident:
This is the second time, the U.S. blames the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons. Back in the June, the U.S. said it had “high confidence” it was the regime who used chemical weapons against the opposition.
Because of that assessment, President Obama decided to provide the Syrian opposition with more assistance including some military support. The incident in June, however, was a much smaller attack.