Leaked Cable Claims Syria Used Chemical Weapons, U.S. Downplays Report
According to a secret State Department cable from the Consul General in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner, the Syrian army may have deployed chemical weapons against civilians in Homs on December 23. The cable to Washington comes after an investigation conducted by the consulate that is “one of the most comprehensive efforts the U.S. government has made to investigate claims by internal Syrian sources.” The anonymous administration official who leaked the cable to Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy added, “We can’t definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23.” Agent 15 is a hallucinogen meant to induce confusion, although two doctors who spoke with Rogin and who treated patients from the alleged attack attribute five deaths and approximately 100 cases of “severe respiratory, nervous system, and gastrointestinal ailments” to the gas.
President Obama stated last August that the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against civilians was a “red line” that might prompt the U.S. to intervene. ”That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” But administration officials announced late Tuesday that it was skeptical about the use of chemical weapons. ”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,” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said. He added: ”If the Assad regime makes the tragic mistake of using chemical weapons, or fails to meet its obligation to secure them, the regime will be held accountable.”
Meanwhile, Jordan is taking precautions along its border with Syria. Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour stated that Jordan was preparing measures that “could lessen the casualties but they would not safeguard the whole society.” And at the U.N., Israeli Ambassador Ron Posor called on the body to take immediate action. ”The Security Council must act today, not tomorrow…It is our responsibility to prevent leakage of chemical weapons to terrorist groups. Too many decisions were made in this room but not implemented…There are times when lack of action is not an option.”