Peter Feaver: Syria Weapons News May Prompt Change to White House Policy

[ 0 ] April 25, 2013

by JULIE POUCHER HARBIN, EDITOR, ISLAMiCommentary on APRIL 25, 2013:

Peter Feaver

Peter Feaver

According to an assessment signed by White House director of the office of legislative affairs Miguel Rodriguez, which was sent to lawmakers earlier Thursday (April 25) “Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin.” (BBC reported)

However the letter also said: “Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making.”

Speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (April 25), U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the use of sarin “violates every convention of warfare.”

The White House’s belief that Syria has used chemical weapons on its own people could be a game-changer for President Obama’s policy toward that nation.

Eric Ferreri, with Duke’s Office of News & Communications, spoke to Peter Feaver — Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at Duke University and Director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies — about this latest development.

“The Obama approach to the region has been premised on the claim that the tides of war are receding and that there will be no more Iraqs on his watch. The president has tried strenuously to avoid intervening decisively in the Syrian conflict, but has also established a red line regarding chemical weapons. Now Obama has acknowledged that there is substantial intelligence establishing that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict,” said Feaver.

Added Feaver, an expert in U.S. policy and international relations who has also served in both the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton presidential administrations: “There are enough ambiguities in the intelligence to leave Obama some wriggle room, and the original red line was vague enough to supply still more wriggle room, but that room is narrowing. The White House announcement sets in motion a process that could end soon in a game-changing decision: whether to enforce the red line and thus sacrifice the Middle East strategy or whether to leave it un-enforced and thus sacrifice U.S. credibility.” 

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Media Contact: Eric Ferreri  

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Category: Americas, i-Comment, Middle East and North Africa, Politics & Current Events, Security & Civil Liberties

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