NBC NEWS- The United States and its allies have concluded that the government of Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons in that Syria's protracted civil war, the Obama administration said Thursday.
The intelligence community concluded with "high confidence" that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons — including the nerve agent sarin — "on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year."
"The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete," said Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes.
The use of chemical weapons crosses the so-called "red line" first established by President Barack Obama last year, which he said would prompt the administration to alter its posture, and become more involved in either aiding Syrian rebels or providing military support, like helping to enforce a no-fly zone.
"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 utilized," Obama said on Aug. 20. "That would change my calculus. That would change my equation."
Rhodes said that the United States and its allies had already acted since April to assist the Supreme Military Council in Syria, a principal opposition group to the Assad regime. He argued that increased support is an example of how the United States has already acted to respond to Assad crossing a "red line.
But Rhodes also noted that the United States had prepared for "multiple contingencies" — military, diplomatic, or economic — to help put pressure on the Assad government.
"We're going to make decisions about further actions on our own timeline," he said, later adding: "We're looking at a wide range of types of support we could provide."
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