White House defends Obama’s Syrian 'red line' as ‘deliberate’

The White House on Monday defended President Obama's “red line” on Syria. 

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama deliberately signaled to Syria that it would cross a red line by using chemical weapons and could provoke a U.S. response. 

But Carney said Obama never laid out specific actions that might be taken in response to Syria crossing the red line. 

“What he never did — it would be simplistic to do so — was say, ‘If X happens, Y will happen,’” Carney said at Monday’s White House press briefing.  “He never said what reaction he would take at a policy level to the proved crossing of the red line in Syria.”

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The press secretary said the president has been “very clear” over how serious he considers the use of chemical weapons. He said that administration officials have reinforced the red line Obama set on multiple occasions since.

The White House has come under criticism since it disclosed that it had evidence chemical weapons were used in Syria. Lawmakers from both parties have warned that if the United States does not take action in response to the chemical weapons evidence, it will embolden Syrian President Bashar Assad.

It is unclear whether Syria's government or rebel groups fighting it have used chemical weapons. 

The Israeli military strikes in Syria this weekend prompted a new round of criticism from lawmakers like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who have called for the White House to establish a no-fly zone and provide arms to vetted rebel groups.

The Obama administration has said it needs to first verify that the Assad regime carried out the chemical attacks before taking more aggressive steps. White House officials have frequently cited the intelligence problems in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion as a reason to proceed cautiously.”

“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.”

Carney would not comment on Israel’s air strikes in Syria, saying only that Israel has the right to act on concerns about the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah.