Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Germany: Assad will not be deterred by Obama's warning

Der Spiegel

The World from Berlin Obama's Warning 'Will Not Deter Assad'

US President Barack Obama warned this week that the US would intervene if Syrian President Bashar Assad uses chemical weapons against his own people. Obama's "red line" raises the stakes in the Syrian conflict, but some observers say that the warning is merely symbolic.

For months, the West has appeared highly reluctant to intervene militarily in the Syrian conflict, apart from some indirect support for rebels in the country. On Monday, however, US President Barack Obama drew a line in the sand.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Obama warned that the use of chemical weapons by the Syria regime, or even their large-scale movement, would mark a "red line" for the US that would have "enormous consequences." The use of such weapons "would change my calculus," he said.

Syria has a massive stockpile of chemical weapons, which is believed to include mustard gas and the nerve agent sarin. Obama emphasized that the US would not accept "a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people" -- an apparent reference to the militant Islamist group Hezbollah or foreign jihadists who are thought to be fighting in Syria.

Obama's statement is regarded as being partly intended to reassure US ally Israel, which is concerned about Hezbollah getting its hands on weapons of mass destruction. It also highlights the growing international dimensions of the Syrian conflict. So far, the US has opposed military intervention in Syria, partly out of concerns that it could broaden the conflict by drawing in Syrian allies such as Iran and Russia and make a political solution harder to obtain. Russia has warned against unilateral intervention by the West, but is also blocking action against Assad in the United Nations Security Council.

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