On June 13, the White House issued a statement (external link) confirming the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the opposition. A number of small scale attacks over the past year have caused an estimated 100–150 deaths, though given investigators’ lack of access to Syria, there is a high probability this casualty data is incomplete. The finding of chemical weapons use, which “violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades,” has caused the United States to change its approach to the Syrian conflict.
The Syrian government continues to deny these claims, saying the rebels are the ones using chemical weapons, but the US investigation found “no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.”
“The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has,” the statement notes. In addition to increasing nonlethal aid to the civilian opposition, the president has authorized expanded assistance to the Syrian Military Council (SMC). “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.”
The statement also affirms that the United States remains committed to seeking a negotiated settlement that will establish an authority capable of securing stability and the rights of all Syrian citizens.
The Museum has been monitoring the situation in Syria and has expressed concern about the escalating risks to civilians. A newly released UN report (external link) now estimates that the Syrian conflict has claimed at least 93,000 lives