Obama: No Red Line for Assad This Time

Stop Syria's chemical weapons with diplomacy, not military.

The Washington Times reports that Syrian President Bashar Assad has again used chemical weapons in his country’s ongoing civil war, and unlike the first time, when Assad ​unleashed sarin gas and other chemical agents, and President Barack Obama warned that their use crossed a "red line," this time there is no red line in sight.

At a press conference last week, the president threatened no military strikes and instead said that the U.S. will reach out to Assad's allies, principally Russia, to intervene diplomatically:

My commitment was to make sure that Syria was not using chemical weapons and mobilizing the international community to assure that that would not happen. And, in fact, we positioned ourselves to be willing to take military action. The reason we did not was because Assad gave up his chemical weapons...

If we have the kinds of confirmation that we need, we will, once again, work with the international community and the organization charged with monitoring compliance by the Syrian government, and we will reach out to patrons of Assad, like Russia, to put a stop to it.

The Times notes that there are numerous reports of Assad using chlorine bombs against rebel forces in the past several weeks. Chlorine itself is not a prohibited substance, but its use in weapons is. There also are reports that his regime has used sarin gas and other chemicals, the mere possession of which is banned under international protocols.

The absence of a military threat from Obama this time stems from a situation on the ground in Syria that is much more complicated than in 2012 when the President issued his “red line” warning, and the U.S. was on the verge of bombing Assad's forces. The U.S. still supports Syrian rebel forces fighting to overthrow Assad, but is also specifically targeting one part of that rebel coalition — the Islamic State terror group, which now controls large parts of both Iraq and Syria and has set up a self-styled Islamic caliphate state in that territory.