By Jonathan Easley - 03/19/13 10:46 PM EDT
The chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees said Tuesday briefings lead them to believe Syrian President Bashar al Assad has crossed President Obama’s “red line” and used a chemical weapons on his citizens, and that U.S. military action should be taken once this is confirmed.
“This is highly classified and we have been advised to be careful with what we say,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CNN.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) concurred.
“I have a high probability to believe chemical weapons were used,” he told CNN. “We need that final verification but given everything we know over the last year and a half, I…would come to the conclusion that they are either positioned for use or in fact have been used, and in both of those scenarios I think we need to step up in the world community to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
Press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday declined to confirm reports that a chemicals weapon has been used for the first time in Syria’s civil war, saying only that the White House is "looking carefully at the information as it comes in."
But Feinstein and Rogers said the verdict is nearly complete, and they await only the final “forensic evidence” that would provoke the White House to action. Obama has promised “consequences” if the Syrian regime turn weapons of mass destruction on its own people, saying Assaid would “be held accountable.”
Feinstein on Tuesday urged the White House to put out a statement.
“We have been fully briefed and I think every member that was at the briefing is very concerned,” she said. “I think it’s a vey serious situation. The president of Syria ought to know this and I think that the White House needs to complete an assessment and make some statement as to what action the United States will take.”
Rogers said it may only be a matter of hours before the White House confirms its suspicions.
“Do I believe that they may have configured weapons and used them? Yes. However, we don’t know for sure and for certain, I think that will happen within hours if not days, that we’ll get some sort of confirmation about chemical weapon use to prove that point,” he said. “I think that we are morally obligated to take some action to make sure that they cannot use – that they lose their capability to use their chemical weapons, I think that’s incredibly important. “
Rogers said the likeliest action would be a “limited military strike” targeted at the regime's chemical weapons depository.
“If in fact we prove beyond a shadow of doubt that they have used these chemical weapons, I think we are morally obligated to do something I think we’re morally obligated to do something about their ability to deliver these weapons,” he said. “If that was a limited military strike to do that, I think we’re obligated to do that if in fact they’ve crossed the president’s red line of chemical weapons use.”