By Jeremy Herb - 08/20/12 05:59 PM EDT
President Obama said Monday that the movement or use of Syria’s chemical weapons is a red line that could significantly change the U.S. calculus toward getting involved in the conflict.
“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama said at a press conference. Weapons being moved or utilized “would change my calculus,” he said.
He said that the Obama administration was preparing for a range of contingency plans in Syria, as the 18-month conflict has shown little sign of slowing. The administration has made clear to everyone in the region, Obama said, that the chemical weapons were a red line that would have "enormous consequences."
He reiterated that the United States remains focused on humanitarian aid and working with the international community to consult with the logistics of a political transition should Assad fall.
Obama once again called on Assad to step down, saying that he has lost legitimacy, a message the Obama administration has long issued as the fighting has escalated.
“So far he hasn’t gotten the message, and instead has doubled down in violence on his own people," Obama said.