In this image taken from video obtained from the Shaam News Network, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, smoke rises from buildings from heavy shelling in Homs, Syria, on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Credit: AP
The Syrian military likely used chemical weapons against its own people during an attack last month, according to a secret State Department cable.
The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that United States diplomats in Turkey "conducted a previously undisclosed, intensive investigation into claims that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons, and made what an Obama administration official who reviewed the cable called a 'compelling case' that Assad's military forces had used a deadly form of poison gas."
The cable was signed by the U.S. consul general in Istanbul, Scott Frederic Kilner and later sent to the State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The secret cable discusses the consulate's investigation into the reports that Syria used chemical weapons during a Dec. 23 attack in the city of Homs.
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The consul general's report followed a series of interviews with activists, doctors, and defectors, in what the administration official said was one of the most comprehensive efforts the U.S. government has made to investigate claims by internal Syrian sources. The investigation included a meeting between the consulate staff and Mustafa al-Sheikh, a high-level defector who once was a major general in Assad's army and key official in the Syrian military's WMD program.
An Obama administration official who reviewed the document, which was classified at the "secret" level, detailed its contents to The Cable. "We can't definitely say 100 percent, but Syrian contacts made a compelling case that Agent 15 was used in Homs on Dec. 23," the official said.
The use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would cross the "red line" President Barack Obama first established in an Aug. 20 statement. "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation," Obama said.
To date, the administration has not initiated any major policy changes in response to the classified cable, but a Deputies Committee meeting of top administration officials is scheduled for this week.
To read Rogin's entire report, click here.
Featured image via AFP/Getty