Obama unconvinced by mounting reports of chemical weapons use in Syria

The Obama administration remains unconvinced that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons that would cross the President Obama's “red line,” administration officials said Tuesday.

The comments come after Israeli officials said they believe Bashar Assad's regime has “increasingly” been using chemical weapons. France and Britain said last week they've reached a similar conclusion.

“We support an investigation. We are monitoring this. And, you know, we have not come to the conclusion that there has been that use,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said during his press briefing. “But it is something that is of great concern to us, to our partners, and, obviously, unacceptable as the president made clear.”

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He declined to say what the consequences would be.

“What I won't do is jump to the next step and say, if claims are verified, what action will we take,” Carney said. “That's speculating, and I won't do that. But you can be sure, based on what the president told you from this podium, that this is a very serious matter, which is why we are investigating it the way that we are.”

Secretary of State John Kerry, for his part, raised doubts about Israel's conclusions. An Israeli Defense Forces intelligence commander, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, said Tuesday that Syria has “increasingly” used chemical weapons and publicly lamented the lack of “any appropriate reaction” in veiled criticism of the Obama administration.

“I talked to [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu this morning from here. I think it’s fair for me to say that he was not in a position to confirm that in the conversation that I had,” Kerry told reporters Tuesday in Brussels. “And so it’s up to him and their process as to when and how they do that, not for me to make any other announcements except to say to you that I don’t know yet what the facts are. 

“I don’t think anybody knows what they are. And I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, 'Don’t always believe what you read in the newspapers.'”