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President Barack Obama confers with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough as he talks on the phone in the Oval Office, Feb. 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
The White House has issued a statement from Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes saying that they've compiled credible evidence that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the opposition, and that President Obama has "authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC)."
Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.[...]

[...] Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks.  This effort is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC, and helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies.  Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward.

The U.S. has briefed the United Nations fact-finding mission on Syria, and will be informing UN Secretary General Ban of these findings. More as the story develops.

2:48 PM PT: Rhodes is apparently briefing reporters.

Rhodes: "The president has made a decision on providing more support to Syrian opposition. That includes military support."
@ZekeJMiller
2:55 PM PT:
Rhodes: No decision on imposing "no fly zone" on Assad regime.
@markknoller

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jun 13, 2013 at 02:42 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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