A top national security official revealed Thursday afternoon that U.S. intelligence services has made a "high-confidence assessment" that Syrian government forces -- and only those forces -- have used chemical weapons. According to Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security advisor, Syrian President Bashar Assad's troops has used the deadly nerve agent sarin and other chemical weapons "on a small scale" multiple times over the past year.
The death toll of 100 to 150 Syrians from chemical weapons represents a tiny fraction of the more than 90,000 deaths from the conflict, Rhodes noted. "But as we’ve consistently said," he added, "the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses red lines that have existed in the international community for decades."
In short, Assad crossed the "red line" drawn by President Obama. So now what?
Rhodes said that the new assessment has led the administration to increase the amount and types of support given to rebels, both through the Syrian Opposition Coalition (the would-be opposition government) and the Supreme Military Council (its military wing). He was resolutely vague, though, about what sort of help the administration was giving to rebels. For example, he wouldn't give a direct "yes" or "no" answer to the question of whether we were now arming the rebels.