US President Barack Obama warned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday that using chemical or biological weapons would constitute a “red line” for US military intervention.
At the impromptu White House news conference, Obama pointed out that he had refrained “at this point” from ordering US military intervention in Syria, but said that there would be “enormous consequences” if Assad failed to safeguard his chemical or biological weapon stockpiles.
The language at the press conference is Obama’s strongest to date, where he not only warned against using chemical or biological weapons but moving them in a threating fashion.
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised,” Obama said. ”That would change my calculus.”
Obama noted that the danger from Syria’s weapons stockpiles “concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us. We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”
Syria last month acknowledged for the first time that it had chemical and biological weapons and said it would use them if foreign countries intervene – a threat that drew strong warnings from Washington.
Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak has warned that if Syrian-backed Hezbollah used the situation to take control of the weapons, it would “act immediately and with utmost force.”
“We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans,” Obama said when asked whether he envisioned the possibility of using US forces at least to safeguard Syria’s chemical arsenal.