Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday the U.S. intelligence community believes the Syrian regime used the chemical weapon sarin, a revelation that immediately raised the question of whether a “red line” had been crossed in the country’s civil war.
Hagel confirmed the intelligence assessment, which was detailed in a letter to select members of Congress, while speaking to reporters on a visit to Abu Dhabi. The administration swiftly released those letters, which said U.S. intelligence determined with varying degrees of confidence that “the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”
The White House stressed that this was not enough to confirm how the nerve gas was released — though acknowledged it is “very likely” to have originated with the regime of Bashar Assad — and pressed the United Nations for a “comprehensive” investigation. The letter from the White House director of the Office of Legislative Affairs to leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said the assessment was based in part on “physiological samples.
Read more: chemical weapons were used in Syria