The White House on Monday denied reports that President Obama’s “red line” against Syrian chemical weapons use was a gaffe, calling the language “deliberate.”
The New York Times in a report over the weekend cited administration officials who claimed that Obama did not mean to use such a rigid term, which some said has put the president in a corner.
“What he never did — and it is simplistic to do so — is to say that if x happens, y will happen,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “He has never said what reaction he would take at a policy level to the proved crossing of the red line in Syria, simply that he would consider it a red line that had been crossed — and that he would take appropriate action.”
The White House has received bipartisan criticism for not being more forceful in its response to the believed use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against his own people. Obama is under even more pressure to act in the wake of Israeli air strikes in Syria.
“The fact of the matter is, jumping to conclusions and acting before you have all the facts is not a good recipe for weighty policy decisions,” Carney said Monday. “We have seen in the not-too-distant past the consequences of acting before we had all the facts. And that’s why this president insists we get all the facts.”
The White House refused to comment on the Israeli military strikes.
And it dismissed the suggestion by a United Nations investigator that Syrian rebels had used the nerve gas sarin during the more than two-year-civil war there.
“We find it highly likely that chemical weapons, if they were in fact used in Syria – and there is certainly evidence that they were – that the Assad regime was responsible,” Carney told reporters.